Ah! Week number three and the roller coaster is set to commence again. I am still thinking about the previous game against New York City, where we came from two down to draw the match. I am not going to lie, that game took a lot out of me as a fan and I was just watching in a pub. I can't imagine what it must have been like for someone that was actually inside Yankee stadium, cheering for our beloved Reds.
Anyways, on to round three and we are playing Sporting Kansas at Children's Mercy Park, as it's now called. I said last week that I would stop making predictions and I am holding myself to that. I did have my own preconceived notions about the match, but I've been wrong the last two times.
I had made plans, with Aly, to go someplace else to discover another kind of match day experience, but he bailed on me last minute. So off to Shoeless I went, again. As I have said many times before, I love the vibe there and everyone is super welcoming, so it was great to see familiar faces again. I really can't wait for the away trip to Montreal, so that I can tell you guys about a real match day experience, but this will have to do for now.
Sporting Kansas have won two games out of two and are looking like a genuine threat. Some will argue that they haven't been the best value for those points, but I can respect any team that grinds out results. I'd want Toronto FC to do the same. It is going to be a tough match today, given the quality of the opposition and also because Toledo would be refereeing.
In my experience following professional footy, I have never seen an official as card-happy as Baldomero Toledo. I don't think too highly of him, as he's made some questionable calls in the past. I was definitely panic-stricken, for a moment, when the match official was announced. Getting a result doesn't appear very good when you play formidable opposition and have Toledo refereeing. I found it kind of ironic that Toledo would be in-charge at Child's Mercy Park. Anyhow, it's the performance of the Reds that I am really looking forward to. We are unbeaten in our first two games and there is no reason why that trend can't continue, if we play to our strengths.
I arrive at Shoeless Joe's an hour before kick-off and it's definitely a smaller crowd, this time around. I'd like to think that less people came out due to it being a later kick-off on Sunday. The rest of the Red Patch Boys arrive and we grab one long table, where all of us can sit. The discussions were definitely more football oriented and it's great to talk footy with like-minded people, here in Toronto. We talk team, tactics, and generally anything related to Toronto FC. Some of the main guys from the Red Patch Boys are there too and conversations are held about supporter initiatives for the year. It all gets me very excited to see what we can come up with.
The match starts and Shoeless is a little more packed with late stragglers. Toronto FC seem to be doing well in the first half and having some good possession to boot. It's pretty much equal in the first and not much happens, other than the odd save here or there. Like I said, Toronto FC have been playing well and I genuinely pleased with the performance. I had thought that we would be playing defence-first soccer, while launching the ball out of our own half, straight back to the opposition. Luckily, that only happened a few times and we got to their area and had some decent chances. The fans at Shoeless were also pleased at halftime and were looking forward to the 2nd half as much as I was.
The 2nd half starts and TFC are once again retaining good possession. Sporting is also coming on strong and get a few shots away at goal, but to no avail. It's a pretty balanced game. Toronto FC finally get a great chance in the 62nd minute, when Endoh is clean through on goal from the left side. He strikes the ball, but hits it straight at the Sporting Kansas keeper! To be fair, the keeper made himself look very big, but Endoh should really be burying that chance. The supporters at Shoeless are left with their hands on their heads and just generally frustrated. That chance may come back to bite us later.
Alas, that is exactly what happens in the 70th minute, but the goal should not have stood! Brad Davis collects the ball on the right-hand side, CLEARLY fouls Justin Morrow, and goes on to score by cutting in and finishing. Now I have two problems with this goal. The first is obviously Toledo's incompetence against us yet again. The second is the defence completely shutting off, when the call did not go TFC's way. I am a big proponent of playing to the whistle. Forget anything that happens before, just play until you hear the whistle. Unfortunately, the TFC defence forgot to do that and we paid for it. There was outrage at Shoeless, most likely because Toledo botched that decision. I was furious at both things equally. Perhaps, when I go for my CSA coaching licenses, I can drill that practice into any team I coach. I don't remember being that furious at any point in the last few months. It's then that I realized that Toronto FC was truly back for the year.
Staying on the topic of Toledo's incompetence, he proceeds to show the red card to Roger Espinoza in the 84th minute. It was a hard tackle, but not worthy of a red in my opinion. Classic Toledo, card-happy and botching calls. I was less than pleased. I didn't really care about the Espinoza decision, I was still fuming from that goal.
The league needs to do something to address the lack of competent officiating in this league. Too many times, I have seen Toronto FC suffer due to a bad call and it's not good for the sport at all. I'm sure other teams suffer from the bad refereeing as well. MLS needs to work with the USSF and CSA to provide refs with a proper program and education, when it comes to games. Oftentimes, these games are too big to be decided by a bad refereeing decision. I know a lot people have been calling for video replays and though I can see merit in that, I am too much of a purist to want to have that in football. I also don't want MLS to become the guinea pig for every new thing that the football world is thinking about.
Moving on, the game ends 1-0 and it really has nothing to do with how Toronto FC played. A draw would have been a fair result and we would still be unbeaten. That's just the way football goes sometimes, though. The rest of the Shoeless faithful are ruing this loss as much as me. When I looked at it critically, 4 points from the first 3 away matches, is not a bad return. This loss will hurt, however, and now we have two weeks to let it sink in because of the international break.
After the match, I end up discussing some very interesting things with some of the Red Patch Boys. We talk about banners and how we want to proceed making them for the home games ahead. It's a very interesting topic and many great ideas are put forth. It will be interesting to help out with the banner initiatives and make something amazing come to life at BMO Field. People have to realize that the people in supporters groups take a lot of time out of their daily lives to make the atmosphere amazing at the stadium. I know a lot of casuals attend TFC games for the atmosphere alone and that's all due to groups like the Red Patch Boys. We also discuss road trips, to see TFC play away from home. I am definitely going to Montreal and a lot of others are leaning towards going, as well. I find that I have to jump through a lot of hoops to get tickets for the away section in Montreal, though. Many others convey that they are having similar problems.
It was getting quite late and I have to drive back to the west-end, so I say my goodbyes and promptly take off. I am disappointed and happy at the same time, after my adventure to Shoeless today. Obviously, the disappointment comes from the way the match went, but I am happy because I am starting to feel like I actually belong in a supporters group and that my voice is being heard as a fan. I am getting a chance to participate and put forth my ideas. It is a great feeling and I can't wait to see TFC in person this season. I day-dream about standing in section 112 with the Red Patch Boys to cheer on the Reds!