"I think we are in a period of bad luck and you can see it." "Things are just not going the way we want them to go, it's bad luck, it's the only thing I can explain" "I think we are having bad luck" "This is probably the most unlucky I've been in my whole career"
Those are post game quotes from Aron Winter and Ryan Johnson, and if you focus strictly on the second half of Toronto FC's 1-0 loss to Chivas USA then I'd agree. Chivas were sitting on their 1-0 lead, and allowing TFC to attack them. Eventually TFC managed to make some chances, and just in the last 20 minutes or so, Johnson just missed with one header, and had another shot cleared off the line after beating the goalie. Danny Koevermans was once again the victim of a save of the week candidate, two of them this time from Dan Kennedy to go with the one from Donovan Ricketts last week.
So, sure, looked at out of context and independently of the rest of the season, it seems like bad luck. But when you add on an insipid first half performance, and another goal given up by poor defending, I wouldn't even say the result of this game in itself is bad luck. For the season as a whole, the CCL was fun, but where it really counts, in league play we're now 0-5, which is both TFC's worst ever start to the season and longest ever losing streak. It's now 3 straight defeats at 'fortress BMO' without even scoring one goal. Even without getting into the previous 5 years of failure, there's clearly a lot more than bad luck going on here.
The season's gone from frustrating - we're not actually this bad, to depressing - oh wait, we are this bad aren't we? and now it's at the point of being comically bad, where the only way to preserve your sanity is to stop caring, sit back and laugh and wonder just how the hell you managed to convince yourself it'd be different this year.
Last year it took me until July 2nd when we went behind against Vancouver in the Voyageurs Cup 2nd leg to reach that point. This year I didn't even make it halfway through April. That year TFC came back to win that game and give the rest of the season a sense of purpose, and all the summer signings went on to make a big difference as well.
This year? Well people are now starting to muse about just how long Aron Winter has left if he can't turn this around. I wouldn't say we should be close to that at all, but that may be for another article. The only hope to cling to right now is once again an influx of new players, with hopefully the 4 and both 3 's being bolstered. First up, and probably the main bright point from this game was the return of Adrian Cann. He certainly didn't look at his best, but for his first full game in almost a year, he put in a very good performance, and actually seemed to bring some organisation to the defence which is a much needed thing. Defensive mistakes weren't eliminated by any means with Chivas getting a few half chances due to poor clearances, and their goal coming from a corner that saw Oswaldo Minda easily lose his marker Richard Eckersley and then outjump Ryan Johnson at the near post, who seemed unaware that Minda was coming up behind him. Overall though Cann's return was very welcome, and Doneil Henry also staked a claim to a starting spot with a good substitute appearance, though it was probably the easiest 30 minutes or so he'll ever get as Chivas were very much parking the bus for almost all the second half.
Once again the introduction of Torsten Frings is the big thing to be hanging a sense of hope on. He will probably be back next week against Chicago, and we can only hope he has the immediate impact he had last season. It should be interesting to see exactly where he lines up. Will it be in the middle of the defence again, as he was to start the season? This will be the first time that Cann and Frings have been in the same side. Will Cann's presence be enough to allow Frings to move into the midfield where he can provide the leadership and ability that's so far been lacking. Terry Dunfield again showed a lot of heart and tackling ability, but his limitations were also exposed when it comes to the quick and accurate passing needed to make a success of Winter's approach. As for Julian de Guzman, well he was on the bench for this one, with no real explanation given, and a non committal maybe offered by Winter when asked if he'd be back for the next game.
Up front, well we're still waiting for the 2011 version of Danny Koevermans to show up. He's looked fitter recently and the chances are coming now, which is a good sign, and yes he's had some bad luck with fantastic reaction saves being made against him. But he still looks very frustrated with things out there, and really, the second of his chances, towards the end of the game, wasn't a great save as much as a bad miss. It was right at Kennedy, in the middle of the goal, and the sort of chance he would have buried last year. If we go with the bad luck explanation, at some point those chances have to start going in for him right? Right?
So there's improvements we can reasonably be expecting in all areas of the pitch, will it be enough to turn TFC's 'luck' around? let's hope so, and let's hope it happens quickly. Any sense of a second chance for TFC with fans that existed at the start of the season with all the excitement of the champions league and the big event at the dome is now thoroughly wasted and those supporters still here are back to the same old disgruntled and distrusting state of mind from last year. Yesterday's singing of Danny Dichio at 23:13 seemed louder and longer than it has for a long time, and to me at least felt like a lament for a simpler and happier time. There didn't seem to be that much anger after the game, just a resigned acceptance that we're in for another long year, and that sense of apathy is a very dangerous thing as far as attendances go.
Going into the year, I thought we'd be doing alright in the league so was kind of hoping we wouldn't win the Voyageurs Cup to avoid further fixture congestion. Now, it looks like that and a CCL run will be our only chance of glory, or even interest once again. Sigh.