Another Pre-season game, another less than dominating performance - time to panic or just be thankful that no one's been injured and keep looking to March 15th? Mostly the latter with a smidge of the former I'd say.
Last night's game featured a much different line-up than the previous one last Wednesday. Yesterday we were treated (subjected, exposed, etc.) to what can only be termed as the B squad for TFC. What is kind of scary is that the B squad we saw last night was most often the A squad last year - did I say kind of scary? How about down right terrifying. However as bench depth? Less objectionable than well, almost every other season. and hey they need minutes too!
Joining captain Caldwell was a mix of bench veterans and kids - notably Manny Aparicio up top with Andrew Wiedeman and Kyle Bekker in the middle with Jeremy Hall, joined by Jackson out wide. Not the strongest attacking third or creative of midfields but like I said, they need minutes and time to gel too.
What was interesting was the positions a couple of players were slotted into - we've been hearing all about how Ryan Richter has been getting time as a CB, well lo and behold he started next to Steven Caldwell. What was even more interesting was having Gale Agbossoumonde starting at RB - apparently all of our RBs are hurt (or in Richter's case, playing CB). Not sure what it says about Ryan Nelsen's confidence in Boss that he'd switch out his position, or if it's really just a matter of getting Richter game minutes in a new position.
The first half started out with TFC doing most of the pressing and looking like they'd take the newbies to town. Reggie Lambe (yes, I'm about to say something positive about Lambe), was showing some good pace and movement through the midfield that culminated in getting clipped in the 13' minute by an Orlando player that is hilariously listed only as "Trial Player No. 25" and resulted in a PK for Toronto.
Kyle Bekker was the somewhat (but not really if you think about it), surprise choice to take the penalty and calmly slotted it home. Toronto with their first lead of the preseason! Parade back on! What? 75 more minutes to play? Fine then, where were we? Right, TFC with a lead - this can only end well, right? Will you settle for it ending "Meh"? Well, you've got no choice in that, sorry. This IS TFC after all...
First have progressed and the Orlando players seemed to suddenly remember that they would soon be playing with the big boys and might as well act like it. Half way through the first they started to press and put together some nice attacking runs - mostly spear-headed by Kevin Molino who forced Bendik into making a couple of nice reaction saves (a very good one in the 25').
As the half wore on, only a few of the boys in red really stood out in a positive way - Aparicio was being energetic, as was Jackson, Wiedeman and Lambe had some nice give and go moments and Caldwell snuffed out a number of dangerous moments from Orlando. Otherwise? Bekker continues to look a step off pace (and had a truly lazy turnover in the 33'), Hall clearly needs someone of a higher quality to play next to and the defence? Umm, well Boss and Richter were trying...
Second half! I'd like to say that Toronto took control of the game and schooled the new kids (on the block), but alas no such thing occurred. Michael Bradley was the only half-time sub (in a marked difference to Wed. when wholesale changes were made), coming on for Jeremy Hall; while Orlando swapped out almost their entire team including the keeper.
But even having a ton of new players on the pitch did not affect Orlando's ability to breakdown the midfield and get through the defence time and again. And leading the way through the entire half was Dennis Chin - I suggest you take note of his name - if not for some woeful finishing and some great saves by Bendik, OCSC could have easily been up by two or three goals.
Nelsen slowly made subs throughout the half - bringing on Alvaro Rey for Jackson, Nick Hagglund on for Boss, Justin Morrow on for Morgan and then DeRo for Aparicio & Doneil Henry on for Caldwell, and in the evening's best moment in the comments thread - draft pick Daniel Lovitz (I don't care! It's Lovitz!) came on for Lambe to a chorus of "who's no. 35?". Only Bendik, Wiedeman, Richter and Bekker went the full 90 with most of the first team from Wednesday either getting a rest of playing minimal minutes in this contest.
Out of the group of subs the only one that really stood out was Henry as he ably filled in for Caldwell in the centre and was noticeable in taking charge and had a couple of well-timed tackles. Really the story was Orlando and Dennis Chin - time and again he and Corey Hertzog broke through and made things very tense for Toronto.
Sadly when Orlando finally scored it was not the by Dennis Chin (who above all deserved a goal last night) but by Mark Howard in the 87' as Morrow missed a defensive pick-up and left him open in space. Welcome to the new TFC, same as the old TFC?
You know what - it wasn't an easy game to watch. It was clearly a pre-season game with new things being tried positionally and perhaps still some fitness being gained as the team approaches first kick. Was it boring to watch the play bypass the midfield time and again? A bit frustrating to see Boss look kind of clueless (and wander out of position a lot)? More than a bit frustrating to see Bekker still looking lost off the ball and tentative with it? Yes to all of those things.
However, Bendik acquitted himself well throughout the game and actually passed out of the back a few times. Henry and Caldwell both looked strong in the middle; and Wiedeman and Lambe are both clearly fighting for first team minutes looking engaged and focused throughout the game (mistakes notwithstanding). Aparicio also was noticeable by not looking out of place with the veteran players - progress.
As much as everyone wants to press the panic button I urge you to resist. Was this a good outing? No, of course not - they drew to a fledgling MLS side - basically they drew to TFC 2007. But until we see a full 90' with the first team, in a proper game situation? Hold off on those cries of doom for just a bit longer, OK? See you Wednesday.