Amid all the din in the Toronto soccer press ahead of Toronto FC’s 1-2 CCL quarterfinal second leg win over the heavily-favoured LA Galaxy, a lone voice out of British Columbia made a simple prediction. Ben Massey:

Los Angeles has an advantage in skill and chemistry over Toronto, but Toronto’s skill and chemistry are sufficient while, athletically, they should have a big edge. The Home Depot Centre will feel less like a fortress than usual with attendance capped at 7,500 fans due to municipal bylaws. Again, it’s no sure thing, but this feels like a Toronto win to me.

Damn them.

As old Georgie Orwell once said, “To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.” LA were tired and have the wrong manager in Bruce Arena, a needlessly conservative coach at a flash club who can’t help but bring a knife to a gun fight. Despite the moaning from the Toronto media over the “same mistakes we’ve seen before” from the first leg (as if a mad scramble in the area is some sort of chronic, years long contagious affliction passed down to different players, coaches, managers), Toronto were clearly a different defensive unit than in previous seasons, a job made easier by Arena’s chronic lack of imagination.

My mistake after the first leg was to put it all on Frings, but yesterday Toronto FC looked downright Dutch. While Soolsma’s winning goal will be the talk of the town, the game was really won in the dying stages of the game when Toronto calmly held possession. No mad dashes down the flank, no wild, panicky clearances from the box, no heroic shots from thirty yards out. Just pass, hold, pass, hold. And that, despite all the talk of TFC’s desperate need for a “proper” central defender, is how you prevent other teams from scoring. While Milos Kocic was brilliant and the LA Galaxy finishing woeful, the inevitability of a Galaxy equalizer didn’t stink up the place like it did last week.

No, Toronto are not world-beaters. But there is a coherence in this team I haven’t seen since 2007. They’re through to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals against Santos Laguna. And while I know there’s no cheering in the press box, I’m not a journalist and last night was one of the more thrilling of my sporting life. I hope some of you enjoyed it, too.

Canada

Toronto FC CCL match reports here, here, here, and here.

Quick look at Montreal Impact in training.

A Vancouver Whitecaps report.

England

Chelsea do the job against Napoli. Drogba didn’t exactly cover himself in glory, however. And of course he wants to stay at the club for a billion years. The team celebrated early into the morning, so presumably they watched the CCL match.

The Internet Shall Provide: video of Sir Dave Richards falling into a poncy-looking puddle following his xenophobic anti-FIFA rant. Meanwhile he defended his actions yesterday by reminding everyone he’s a Yorkshireman. FIFA, predictably, are not happy.

Manchester United will have to pull a Houdini against Athletic Bilbao.

Meanwhile the club confirm Berba’s on his way out in the summer.

Look at the offers Tomas Rosicky turned down.

De Jong: City have to win something this year, FFS.

Redknapp says something about the England job.

Italy

Wesley Sneijder has a thigh strain.

Gazzetta’s take on the Napoli CL loss.

Spain

Sid Lowe makes the case that Spanish football is the best in the world.

Barca beg Pep to commit.

Eric Abidal to undergo liver transplant.

Bits and bobs

Zonal Marking on the number of Premier League teams that attack on the flanks.

Some of the finest football writing you will read.

And that, give or take, is the story so far…

Comments (5)

  1. A big chune! that is all…

  2. A few random thoughts that I find interesting about the TFC result… one thing is TFC’s inability since 2007 to win on the road. I mean, the road has been an absolute graveyard for TFC since losing 4-0 to the Chivas at the Home Depot Centre in the spring of 2007.

    Second, in both games TFC scored first. That’s despite getting zero goals from its #1 striker, Koevermans, and LA having two excellent forwards who have scored in the premier league. Keane and Donovan produced 1 goal between them in 2 games (and that 1 goal came at the very end of one game…..). While Donovan can be excused for bronchitis perhaps slowing him down, Keane has no excuse. He’s not in pre-season mode, having played in the EPL just a few weeks ago.

    The other thing is… do people find LA particularly entertaining? The point about Arena being Conservative is right. I’ve watched so many LA games over the past year or so and while they can plunge the dagger in to team due to having some game-breaking talent (Beckham, Keane, Donovan), I wouldn’t say they entertain. Real Salt Lake or Sporting KC put on a better ‘show’, playing the game the way it should be played. LA instead seems kinda boring. They are extremely well organized. They have smart players. But if they didn’t have Beckham leading the counterattack on almost every play, i think they’d have trouble scoring at all. They are a one trick pony. This works in MLS quite well, as its a long season in a parity league. But in international competition I think it lets them down a bit.

  3. Now Roman will do a complete 180 and the Chelsea old boys will have redeemed themselves after last night’s heroic comeback. The only off-season house-cleaning will probably be Raul Meireles.

    Be afraid Chelsea fans…

  4. The secret identity of “Dave from Newcastle” is secret no more.

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