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Toronto FC 1:1 Chivas USA. Feels just like starting over.

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Alan Gordon, making friends.
Alan Gordon, making friends.

The post De Ro era really didn't start well.  Down a goal after 2 minutes, and a better team than Chivas could have scored three or four in the first 20 minutes, Toronto FC's defending was that bad.  TFC looked like a team that didn't know each other, as if almost half the team had just got off the plane in the last week or so.

Of course that's because that's what they are, Alen Stevanovic got his first start, joined in the starting line-up by Tony Tchani and DanLeigh Borman, the two players TFC got from New York Red Bulls in exchange for Dwayne de Rosario, and Dicoy Williams came on in the second half, as did Julian De Guzman making his season debut.

Nana Attakora was back, joining Adrian Cann in TFC's third different Centre Back partnership in three games, and Ty Harden was at Right Back for the first time this season.  Tchani made his debut as a Defensive Midfielder in front of them, and unsurprisingly, all that unfamiliarity led to some very shoddy defending early on, it was all very pre-season.

Fortunately it did get better, and an Alan Gordon goal meant it finished 1-1, and by the end, you could definitely argue that TFC was unlucky not to get all three points.  If you ignore the slapstick defending, as we're probably going to have do all season, there were some definite positives to bring out of the game.

 

The main positive was the play of Tony Tchani. When the trade went down, a lot of people spoke of him as the key to TFC's side of the deal, with many surprised that the Red Bulls would let him go.  After one game, I can see why, it's way too early to be making declarations of man-love, but if he keeps this up, it won't take me long.  A tough tackling midfielder, he shields the ball well, and looked good going forward at times as well.  It may be just his size and physique and the position he plays, but there were moments when he really reminded me of Michael Essien.   

Alan Gordon also had a very good game against his old team, winning headers in the box with ease.  After Javier Martina's route one-ish goal last week, I was very amused to see us score from the good old unsophisticated "knock a long free kick into the box for the big man up front" routine.  Continuing with the refreshing pragmatismI wrote about last week, even though it's not your "attractive, exciting" style of football, it was working and TFC kept going with it.  Gordon had actually hit the post earlier with another header from a Martina cross, and throughout the game any free kick remotely near the box was aimed at him, and it usually worked.  It wasn't just in the air that he was effective, he held the ball up well and played a great ball through to set up Maicon Santos in the second half.

Javier Martina was also a bright spot as he had another good game, and looks like he'll be a real threat on the wing all season.

After the shitshow that was the first 20 minutes or so, TFC had a very good spell to finish the first half, there was more energy, the passing was crisper and they created genuine pressure and some good chances.  It almost led to a second goal, a very tight offside call going against them when Maicon Santos awkwardly bundled in a Martina shot. 

Sadly though, that's more or less it for  the positives, after the end to the first half and with the sudden appearance of Julian De Guzman, replacing Jacob Peterson at the start of the second, I was very optimistic TFCcould get the win, but the second half was very disjointed, and aside from one very good chance, Chivas had the best of the game, getting plenty of shots on Frei, who made a few good saves to rescue the one point.

That one good chance fell to Maicon Santos, making a great run to beat the offside trap and finding himself one on one with the goalie, with the defence a few yards behind him, and Alen Stevanovic wide open on the other side of the box.  Rather than pass to Stevanovic, Santos decided to do it himself, and did actually round the goalie before a last ditch tackle caught his leg just as he was about to finish and caused him to knock the ball wide,leaving stevanovic very very frustrated. 

A big problem obviously remains the defence, which looked as shaky as it did in the first game against Vancouver, especially early on.  Even after the awful opening quarter of the game, when things settled down a bit and most of Chivas' shots were from long range efforts, as a unit the defence never inspired confidence. 

It would be harsh to criticise DanLeigh Borman as he was thrown in with no chance to train with the squad, but he doesn't look like anything more than depth quality.  I'd expect to see Mikael Yourassowsky regain his place next week when his suspension is over. 

At Right Back, Dan Gargan was dropped, but Ty Harden was no improvement, he looked shaky at the defending part of his job, and much like Gargan, his passing was awful.  At this stage, I'd like to see Demetrious Omphroy get a chance, in pre-season he at least looked good going forward, and showed he can put a good cross in.  In the middle Adrian Cann and Nana Attakora both struggled as well, and Attakora was substituted, Winter saying it was a tactical decision rather than a fitness issue. 

The main problem was with their passing, and it's not just the defence, throughout the team, there's very rarely the quick control and sharp passing needed to break open a well set and organised defence and exploit weaknesses  Too often there were players open, but the quick pass didn't come and by the time the ball made it's way out to Alen Stevanovic on the wing for example, the defenders were in position to stop him.  A lot of that comes from the team being unfamiliar with each other, time spent in training should develop the undersanding to play more instinctively, it's just frustrating that once again TFC has gone into the season with an unsettled squad and needed to use regular season games to do the development that really should happen in pre-season.

So though it really wasn't a good game, there were signs that when we finally get a settled squad and they have time to work together in training and develop an understanding, we could look good.  Of course we were playing another poor team, and against a better team, the game would probably have been over within 20 minutes.  Our training wheels start to the season is now over with only 4 points gained and a visit to San Jose next week, followed by LA Galaxy coming to town.  If there's not significant improvement, it could get ugly.