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.
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.
Quick look at Montreal Impact in training.
A Vancouver Whitecaps report.
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.
Wesley Sneijder has a thigh strain.
Gazzetta’s take on the Napoli CL loss.
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…