Toronto FC on the right track
Sunday, April 27, 2008 | 03:36 PM ET
Toronto FC fans have always been a noisy bunch – now they really have a team worth shouting about.
The transformation from Major League Soccer also-rans into playoff contenders has been as rapid as it has been unexpected. In the space of three short weeks, TFC has evolved from a team outclassed at DC United into an expressive, diligent, creative group capable of beating the best the league has to offer.
And beat them convincingly.
The critics branded them lucky in Los Angeles and unconvincing against Salt Lake – there’s more than a grain of truth in both assertions. The victory over Kansas City, however, contained neither shortcoming. From back to front – from Sutton to Dichio, it was a complete performance and head coach John Carver should be rightly proud of his players.
Amado Guevara was the star of the show – his free-kick to seal the win with 13 minutes remaining was world class. David Beckham, himself, couldn’t have executed it better and if the best known player in MLS was watching while preparing for the SuperClasico, I hope he, like me, was stirred to spontaneous applause by the sheer quality of the Honduran’s strike.
Guevara stole the limelight, but importantly TFC is not a one man show. Combine the additions of Robert, Ricketts and now veteran defender Olivier Tebily, with the battle-hardened warriors who survived a difficult expansion year – Brennan, Robinson, Dichio among others, and Toronto is starting to resemble a roster that can be a handful for any opponent, especially on home turf.
It is easy to be fulsome in one’s praise after witnessing this hasty improvement, but players and fans alike must keep their feet firmly planted – be proud of the team but, as the old saying goes, pride comes before a fall. Confidence is key, overconfidence the enemy. Carver was keen to guard against complacency before the Kansas City game and I suspect his message at practice this week will be much the same.
It is no accident that TFC has, for the first time in franchise history, recorded a hat trick of victories but no one within the organization is naive enough to believe the team is now unbeatable. Hard work, team harmony and self belief are all vital ingredients to success – but sooner or later every team loses a game.
Right now matches can’t come quickly enough for Toronto. Riding the crest of a wave of confidence, the players will be relishing the prospect of another home game against an inconsistent New York side, but Carver knows they must take every match on its individual merits. He also knows that next defeat could be lurking in the shadows on Thursday - all the correct physical and mental preparation in the world cannot legislate for a wicked deflection against the run of play in the 90th minute.
Every team must earn respect from its opponents, and though the immediate future is looking rosy for TFC, that deference does not come overnight or in the space of three games. It can take months, often years, for a franchise to acquire that air of superiority that gives it a psychological advantage before a ball is kicked.
Toronto FC is most certainly on the right track – now is the time to steam ahead and trust a derailment is not around the next bend.
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About the Author
Nigel Reed lends his extensive experience, passion and knowledge of the game of soccer to his role as play-by-play announcer for CBC’s Major League Soccer broadcasts.
Reed has more than 20 years experience covering soccer, most notably a five-year stint from 1999 to 2004 where he was a host and producer for the English Premier League for BBC. He also covered English Premier League giants Liverpool and Everton for BBC Radio and provided analysis for both BBC TV and the BBC website.
More recently, Reed served as play-by-play announcer for CBC’s coverage of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He also hosts The Soccer Show for the Toronto sports radio station the Fan 590.
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