It's exactly 1 p.m. and I am on the road to watch the Reds at Shoeless Joes for a second week in a row. The match starts at 5 p.m., but I am heading down beforehand to attend the Red Patch Boys' annual general meeting. The meeting will give me a chance to meet a lot supporters and also hear about the plans for the rest of the year, as far as support is concerned. I am excited at the prospect of the AGM as it also allows me to participate in the supporter vision for the very first time. I am able and willing to lend a hand when it comes to endeavors such as membership, banner painting, and general supporting.
I arrive at Shoeless Joe's at exactly 2 o'clock and get a seat in the area where the rest of the supporters are. I strike up a conversation with a man sitting to my left and he begins telling me about all of his wonderful experiences with the Red Patch Boys. I find out he is also an Arsenal fan and so I say sorry, in a very sarcastic type of way. Arsenal had just been knocked out of the FA Cup by Watford!
The beauty of supporting a club like Toronto FC is that we all have different allegiances across the pond, but we come together for our local club. There is the usual banter that goes on, but we all stand as a family when it comes to our beloved Reds.
My buddy, Aly from last week, would also be showing up in time for the game, but I ride solo to the AGM. We all take our seats as the meeting begins and I am amazed at how organized the Red Patch Boys are. It gives me further confidence that I have joined the right supporters group. The speakers go over many different issues and prerogatives and I am pleased to hear that there is a concrete plan of action for the coming season.
A lot of discussion goes back and forth about several issues regarding supporters and conduct, nothing that I will mention here. It's also very refreshing to see how much the Red Patch Boys donate to charitable causes. Of course, the main goal is to support Toronto FC, but why not make a difference in the community too? In the end, supporters left the meeting with some very important takeaways. Passion, purpose, and pride.
These are the pillars of the Red Patch Boys and what we hope to bring to the stadium every match. The meeting ends and I am thinking about those individuals who dedicate so much time to supporting our football team and truly make the fan experience better for all. I am going to love being with these people for this season and beyond.
My buddy, Aly, finally arrives and we begin talking about the match, which is due to start in a couple of minutes. I look at the team sheet and I am overly ecstatic that Delgado is in the team and that Lovitz has been left out. I predict that our Reds will run rampant at Yankee stadium. If we high-press like the last game, there is no way their defence can handle us on such a tiny and eccentric pitch. I do mention that the prospect of David Villa up front, for NYCFC, does scare me a little.
For the second week in a row, the match goes exactly the opposite as I had predicted. The first half gets off to a messy starts with both teams not able to keep consistent pressure on. I find that TFC is falling into that "clear the ball right back to the opposition" game-plan again, which was so prevalent in the last match. However, the defenders seemed more assured of themselves last week, rather than on this day. NYCFC are getting plenty of chances and I fear that David Villa is going to punish us soon. Clint Irwin comes up with a big save off of a header early on.
Then New York work their way into our box and Marky Delgado commits a soft foul on McNamara. McNamara goes down rather theatrically, but when you try to challenge a player from behind and make contact, the ref will award a penalty ten times out of ten. David Villa steps up and scores for the bad guys, 1-0 NYCFC.
The excitement at Shoeless Joes goes down a notch. Aly and I are not sure what to make of the match at this point, but we are still hopeful that TFC can sort themselves out and get something out of the game. What a shock then, when NYCFC scores for a second time due to some amazingly shaky defending and the referee missing a call so obvious, that I can't just help but laugh.
The ball bounces around in the TFC 18-yard box, comes off of David Villa's arm, who turns and scores his second. The entire crowd at Shoeless is furious and rightly so! I am especially mad at the fact that I can't drown my sorrows with a beer, as I had driven to Shoeless. TFC were really up against it now.
We being supporters, however, means that we do not give up, even when we are down. I would be happy if TFC can get a goal before the half, as there Is a little bit of an upturn in momentum in the closing stages of the first. Giovinco misses a glorious chance. Toronto FC keep pressing and Giovinco plays in Will Johnson clean through on goal. Johnson side steps the keeper and everyone at Shoeless Joes starts celebrating! But NO! Johnson misses and I literally have no explanation as to how. Everyone is holding their heads in disbelief.
Play continues and Toronto FC get a free-kick to the right side of the 18-yard box. It's close enough to play a great ball in, but not close enough for Gio to have one his trade-mark free-kicks. All the big men enter the box as Giovinco crosses it in. Perquis gets on the end of it and slots it home to make it 2-1! We celebrate for real this time! Best of all, the goal comes in the closing stages of the first half and we have an entire 45 minutes to turn the game around! It was the lifeline we had been looking for.
I need to step outside at half-time, as the game has been too intense for my liking. Aly and I discuss the utter garbage defending that TFC has played for most of the first half. We both truly believe that we can turn it around now, however.
We get inside as the second half is just starting and Toronto FC is beginning to play a lot better. They are actually able to string together some passes and keep possession, while New York look like they are under some serious pressure. The entire half is open and both teams get a plethora of chances. Giovinco looks lively again and misses a few good chances, but Aly gets the feeling that he will bury one soon enough.
Eventually, in the 76th minute, Giovinco receives a pass outside the NYCFC 18-yard box, which he controls spectacularly. He turns and goes past two or three NYCFC defender and slots it in with a placed left-foot strike! We've done it! We've come from 2-0 down, to tie at 2-2! There are still 14 minutes left to go and we feel as if momentum is truly on our side.
The rest of the match plays out with some great chances for either side, but ultimately remains 2-2 at the end. I tell Aly that I am happy with a point, especially having come back from two down. We now had 4 points from 2 matches, which isn't bad at all, considering I would have been okay with 8 points from the first 8 away games.
After the match, we meet a lot of the other supporters and discuss road trips and plans for the season. Aly and I have made the decision to travel to Montreal on April 23rd. Every time we go there, it's a good away day. I pick up some fantastic merchandise designed by RPB and make my way home.
I think about the following week, when we play Sporting Kansas City. It'll definitely be a tough match, but anything can happen in this league and I am not going to make predictions any more. I tell Aly that we should do something different next week, to take in the match, and even though Shoeless Joes is my home away from home, I want to try seeing what some of the other fan experiences are. We make our decision about where (and with who) to watch and I am going to love describing it next week.
The season is truly back and the roller coaster is just starting.