What's that you say? They lost; again? By how many goals? But to a really good team, right? Not really? Umm, did the first team play? No? Oh well there you go; nothing else to see here - move along.
Except that's not quite the case. So the last pre-season match (at least in public) of TFC's season was this afternoon and it didn't really do much to allay the fears of those concerned about the current makeup of the team. Really it pretty much just solidified things that we already know about the team. Still not showing any real creativity through the middle, weak on the wings defensively and basically strolling through the second half also didn't help. But some players did stick out; for good or for ill
It's apparent that Michael Bradley is currently the best player on the team - although he had a couple of gaffes this afternoon he still calmly patrolled the midfield, worked with Caldwell to organize things and of course scored that really nice goal off the free kick in the first. Seriously, he's not going to do that a lot but it was damn nice.
Steven Caldwell is without quit - the most vocal player on the pitch for the entire game (except for whoever kept yelling for Jackson - Wieds?), he was also the most energetic - one of the few that went the full 90 but also seemed to be going all out for the entire match.
Doneil Henry isn't quite over making mental mistakes, including at least one rash tackle and some uneven marking on the second Fluminense goal; that he balanced with some strong play including at least one really good tackle. Like Caldwell he was very vocal and could be heard shouting instruction to Ashtone Morgan. Oh did we mention the refreshing lack of commentary? Crowd, player and sideline noise was all to be heard - it was very different and very welcome.
The Jeremy Hall at RB experiment should now be laid to rest forever. Seriously - stop letting this happen. I know that Boss didn't exactly cover himself in glory and that everyone else under the sun is hurt - although why the bearded wonder couldn't have played I don't know. And I'm generally one of the first to rail against Richter's play; that's how poor I think Jeremy Hall was. Chief among his many errors was the foolish tackle that gave FLU a penalty - it was a dumb, rookie move and shouldn't have happened. Thankfully Nelsen finally had enough in the second half (finally) and brought Hagglund on to take over RB duties while Hall moved into the MF.
And lastly; DeRo is clearly serious about being successful in his return to Toronto. Another one of the few tireless workers throughout the game, he scored what seemed to be a sure goal that was called offside; tied the game a short while later and worked end to end throughout large sections of the match. Side note: on the disallowed goal he provided one of the comedic moments of the game when he appeared to be about to go into his trademark 'shake and bake' move when the ref called the whistle.
The rest? Well, varying degrees of meh and good luck in Wilmington really. Bekker still fails to impress; still looks a step slow and was noticeably lazy on defence. Manny was a bit lost and will benefit from time in Wilmington - but was able to look not completely out of place. Jackson was good in fits - very energetic, willing to throw himself into the fray and sent in some nice balls - his best outing of the season in my opinion, although he's still not quite seeing the open man.
And then there's Ashtone Morgan - I want nothing more than for Ashtone to find the next level in his game and really be a force at LB. Unfortunately that still doesn't seem to be happening and other than an ongoing lack of midfield creativity and the thin, thin forward line is one of the more glaring problems for Toronto. Victim on the left of being beat flat out or being woefully out of position (not to mention being yelled at non-stop it seemed) on more than one occasion it's a concern for Toronto in terms of depth and in terms of development for Morgan - is this as far as he can go?
It's also painfully clear that losing Bright Dike and not having Gilberto healthy or Defoe even with the team means that a large number of minutes are going to fall to Wiedeman. Wieds is a hard worker and an OK option off the bench - but he is not your main guy, he just isn't.
What does all of this mean? Essentially nothing until we see the actual first team play in a game situation. But it underscores that (as usual), Toronto are a few injuries away from being the same team from last year - maybe worse. But that bye week is a blessing for sure so we should expect to see a much different TFC on March 15. If not; well we'll talk more then. As always, TFC's pre-season is a lot of noise that means nothing - but even the most logical have to be feeling tiny little bits of panic, just a little.
Fair warning: the dance party music is back.