T-O-R! O-N-T! O-T-F-C! TFC! *clap, clap, clap* TFC! *clap, clap, clap* OK, it's not quite the Mickey Mouse Club theme song; but it's close! It's that time of year again kids, when our hearts and fanatic selves look to Florida to scrutinize every second of pre-season play in hopes of guessing what will happen this season.
After today's match against the Columbus Crew you could come to the conclusion that: a) Frederico Higuaín is going to win the league by himself. b) The Florida air does something to wreck internet streams and c) that most of TFC have never played together. *Note: My stream went down for a good chunk of the second half so I'm just assuming good things happened and that the kids acquitted themselves well*
I suppose I shouldn't blame the Florida air, but wasn't that stream fun? I suppose we shouldn't complain too much as we're lucky enough to get a stream. But it is frustrating to have freezing, time lag and disappearing audio - not to mention that stultifying camera work. I admit to taking the commentator's word for who was doing what as I squinted at the tiny players on my screen. Regardless it was fun to get to see the team without peering through fog banks.
Actually there's a little truth in a) & c) - Higuaín was clearly the class of the day. From his stunning free kick strike into the upper left hand corner past César in the 10th minute, to his harassing runs throughout the first half, he pretty much did what he wanted for 45 minutes. If he looks this dangerous now, imagine what he'll be like once the season starts. Opposition defences; study this video!
As for c) - well, most of the team that started (as close to the first team as we've seen thus far) haven't played together before - outside of practise that is. And there's no doubt that they're still unused to one another, but that's kind of what pre-season is for, right?
The first half was mostly controlled by the Crew as they smoothly set up attacking runs, passed with seeming impunity and worked together as a unit. All of this was of course punctuated by 3 minutes of madness as Josh Williams followed up Higuaín's goal with a stunning strike of his own on a poorly cleared ball.
What's that you say? TWO goals scored within three minutes on one of the best keepers in the world? Obviously we've been sold a giant bill of goods by the Tims! No wonder he's been languishing on QPR's bench! (Insert additional indignant remark about Júlio César here). But that's a truly unfair way of looking at both goals - if you watch the Game In Six (cleverly inserted below), you'll see he really had no chance at either goal.
But what you may have noticed - or not given it's absence - was how few (read: none) balls were punted down the pitch to fall anywhere but near a TFC player. It was refreshing to say the least. Also refreshing was the play of Doneil Henry - he positioned himself well, calmly dealt with attacks and stood out as being cool and competent.
Also a standout was of course Michael Bradley - it's doubtful that many post-season write-ups will have a lot of negative things to say about the "General". He patrolled the midfield, broke up plays, easily collected and controlled the ball - all of the things you want from your defensive midfielder. He also worked well with Jonathan Osorio and as the game wore on you could see the growing ease between the two. This bodes well for a team that was often starved for creativity through the middle of the park last year.
Alvaro Rey wasn't involved a lot in the attack (but was pitching in on defence) as they were moving up the right through Jackson most of the first half with balls sent into Gilberto - mostly unsuccessfully but that speaks to unfamiliarity. Gilberto was certainly doing his level best to score and did well to get into position on multiple occasions.
As mentioned above I didn't see much of the second half. Apparently Andrew Wiedeman almost scored a couple of times, and it wasn't even raining! He and Reggie Lambe seemed to pair up nicely and no one else did anything to either distinguish themselves or mess up too badly (scintillating reporting, I know).
All in all Toronto was clearly the lesser of the two teams on this day. Which stems entirely from familiarity and not from talent (Higuaín notwithstanding). Toronto starts the season with a bye week so in essence have an additional week to prep for this season. They still have three games to play while in Florida plus training sessions to gel as a team.
While we often moan and groan about pre-season it's important to keep one thing firmly planted in our heads - it's pre-season and really, it means nothing. Nothing matters (for TFC) until March 15th. Until then all we can watch for is signs of growth and chemistry. Let's wait to write the season off until at least the home opener, OK? So, see you Saturday?