Road rage a worrying TFC trend
Wednesday, June 11, 2008 | 09:58 AM ET
The problem with progress is pressure. The better you become, the higher the expectation of what can be achieved.
Raising the bar is all well and good but it must be done at sustainable intervals - the objectives and goals must be set at realistic levels.
Toronto FC’s rapid rise from Major League Soccer whipping boys to competitive, coherent opponents has been close to meteoric, the creativity and fluency so absent in 2007 has been abundant in 2008. Home field advantage has been exploited to great effect; BMO Field has become the fortress Mo Johnston craved last season.
Away from home the story is very different.
Road games remain problematic and results are beginning to form a familiar pattern. Coach John Carver was rightly concerned at the lacklustre performance in Houston and offered no excuses for a bad day at the office. He admitted his team was “dreadful” and will, no doubt, be pulling out all the stops to find a solution.
True, Carver was without arguably his most creative player - Amado Guevara was away on international duty, as was last season's rookie of the year Maurice Edu, but the coach knows these absences are now par for the course which is why he’s placed such emphasis on having roster depth for every position.
Four defeats out of five on the road, however, tell their own story and had it not been for a combination of Greg Sutton’s heroics and Landon Donovan’s profligacy in Los Angeles, the stats could be even starker. Every player performs better when there is confidence and self-belief running through the team and these symptoms of travel sickness must be cured before they turn into an epidemic.
Watching the Dynamo defeat was a painful experience - not merely the result but more importantly the manner in which TFC was “outclassed” - Jeff Cunningham’s description, not mine.
Ironically the TFC striker went on to score the best goal of the night, perhaps his best since joining the Reds just over a year ago. Sadly, in context, it meant nothing except that his next one will. Cunningham will become only the fourth player in MLS history to score 100 goals if he finds the net against one of his former teams, Colorado, on Saturday night.
I hope, for his sake, Cunningham achieves the landmark against the Rapids for a couple of reasons.
First, it will boost his own confidence, which at times seems fragile, to score three goals in as many games. Second, it will not allow the monkey to settle on his back and hang around for weeks while he strives and struggles to join the elite 100-club. Cunningham needs to be scoring, not worrying about milestones.
Temporarily, at least, Toronto’s road rage can be put to one side as the Reds prepare for back to back home matches against teams who are just as bad away from home - Colorado and Kansas City have mustered just two road wins between them in 2008. Carver knows they are both must-win games if his team is to keep pace with the stronger Eastern Conference leaders.
Thereafter, the schedule is jam-packed. Soon enough we’ll be talking about prestige internationals and the MLS All-Star Game at BMO Field.
TFC fans already have their own team of all-stars - they just need to shine on a consistent basis.
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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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