Toronto FC 2, Wizards 0: A Supporter’s View

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With one beautiful free kick goal, Amado Guevara helped secure the three points for Toronto FC and helped TFC extend its winning streak to three matches.

Is this really the same team that started the season so poorly? The easy answer is no, not with newcomers Guevara, Laurent Robert and Rohan Ricketts turning the Toronto midfield into one of the best in MLS.

Kansas City might be asking similar questions about whether this is the same team that started the season. The Wizards got out of the gate quickly, going 2-0, but just one win in the next four matches has KC wondering what the problem is.

SBI Correspondents Duane Rollins and Mike Cross took in the action on Saturday and provide us with their takes on Toronto’s 2-0 victory:

Toronto giving fans a reason to sing

By DUANE ROLLINS

The song was first heard as we stood in line to enter BMO Field Saturday. A few die-hards stood to the side attempting to teach those entering the stadium its simple words.

Without the least bit of irony, they sang out:

We’re not (crap) anymore…

A two game winning streak and a spot—early as it might be—in the league’s top eight, had made the faithful giddy. They weren’t quite ready to proclaim TFC as the best, or even as very good. But, one thing was certain. Toronto wasn’t (crap) anymore.

Especially at home, where TFC is redefining what it means to have a home pitch advantage in MLS. Long time fans of other teams can be forgiven for growing tired of hearing about how successful TFC has been in the community. And, the warnings that those fans have provided about not taking full houses for granted are fair and well understood.

But, still…to sit in that park on a Saturday afternoon and breath in the atmosphere that is being created is something that can not be accurately described. It’s exhilarating, electric and organic. TFC’s 12th man is real. You can see its presence on the pitch and, last week, you knew that it wasn’t going to let Toronto lose the game.

To understand how dedicated the Toronto fan has become, consider this: At midnight Friday, the city’s transit workers unexpectedly walked off the job. With the trains and buses shut-down—and a Toronto Raptors NBA playoff game taking place at the same time just a couple miles up the road—there was legitimate worry that not all the seats would be filled.

Instead, the message boards began to light up with offers of rides. Bikes were taken out of storage. One fan I spoke to spent three hours walking to the game.

In the end there was nothing to worry about. The seats were filled. It was just another day at the park.
And, what a day it was.  In the team’s brief history it is difficult to remember a game where TFC controlled so thoroughly from start to finish. Last year’s 4-0 thrashing of Dallas, perhaps, but even that game lacked the businesslike effectiveness of last Saturday.

Amado Guevara would end up getting the headlines with the brace (including a world class free kick that literally left the crowd gasping—that couldn’t have been a Toronto player that just did that, could it?), but after the game the talk was all about Marvell Wynne. The American international doesn’t get the attention of some of manger Mo Johnston’s other acquisitions, but he is consistently the engine that drives the TFC attack from the back.

More exciting, perhaps, was that other than Wynne the remainder of TFC’s back-line was pretty much invisible. And after the season’s first two games, an invisible TFC fullback is a good thing. A very good thing.

No, there was nothing (crap) about TFC’s performance Saturday. Actually, it was so good that it had some TFC fans willing to set the bar a little higher. They weren’t ready to yell it from the rooftops quite yet, but quietly—and with layers upon layers of qualifiers—there were more than a few that were willing to point out that a TFC win on Thursday would put the team tied with Columbus—at the top of the table!
Now that would be something worth singing about.

Wizards still a hard team to figure out

By MIKE CROSS

This one isn’t easy to write about. Once again the Wizards are proving a tough team to gage. Toronto came away from this game with a well deserved win. They dominated play for long stretches of the game and seemed to by far have the better of the chances.

Strangely though, in looking back at the stats they didn’t necessary support the feel of the match which felt like the Wizards were under siege for much of it. The final stats showed the Wizards having the better of both shots on goal and corners. Much of this must have come in the last frantic minutes of the game, skewing the numbers.

What isn’t easy to gauger is just what is this Wizard team’s personality.  If you had to judge by the last three games you’d say they were a low scoring defensive team, but I can’t believe that’s what we’ll be saying about them come the end of the season.  Without evidence to the contrary though at this early stage of the season we just can’t get a handle on who these Wizards are.

All that said though this game was an excellent example of how closely matched teams in the MLS are. This isn’t the EPL with a group of clubs clearly superior to the rest of the league.  For me the difference in the game came down to a couple of moments where the Wizards had a lapse of concentration. Although the Wizards seemed to be under attack for most of the game they appeared to be weathering the storm pretty well. It looked like they would have an excellent chance to split the points.  But then in the 56th minute they had their first lapse. 

On Toronto’s  first goal it seemed to me the Wizards were slow to react to the developing threat and choose to appeal for off sides instead of closing down Guevara when the ball deflected off a Wizards player and fell to him. Then in the 77th minute as the Wizards were pressing for an equalizer, Carlos Marinelli committed a needless foul at the top of the eighteen yard box.  This second lapse in concentration led to the free kick also taken by Guevara which iced the game. What it all comes down to for me is that these two instances were the difference between Toronto and the Wizards on Saturday. 

You can’t comment on this game without giving props to the Toronto FC fans.  They have clearly created the best game day atmosphere in MLS. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing and they are more like Europeans than us Americans and so more predisposed to the game the rest of the world calls football. For the sake of MLS what I hope it is that we’ve just not pushed the right buttons to bring all the soccer fans already here into the fold.

Is there cause for concern for the Wizards based on this game?  That’s the question I asked myself when I couldn’t really get myself worked up over the loss. What I kept thinking is it’s a long season.  It’s not like we weren’t expecting that there’d be games like this in a long season.  So I’m thinking I’ll just let this one ride.

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18 Responses to Toronto FC 2, Wizards 0: A Supporter’s View

  1. Yang says:

    “Maybe it’s a Canadian thing and they are more like Europeans than us Americans and so more predisposed to the game the rest of the world calls football.”

    I actually think that is exactly it. With such a strong, vibrant immigrant community in Toronto, you sometimes find that the city can be just as divided when Euro or World Cup rolls around as they are united at BMO. Definitely a wonderfully unique aspect of the city.

  2. bgnewf says:

    Duane. Actually it only took me two and a half hours to walk to the game. Thanks for the props though.

  3. Trex says:

    Nice analysis on both sides!

  4. seven says:

    Good recaps. Glad to see that the winning team was given credit for the victory. Very important for Toronto to maintain the home form.

  5. I don’t know. Having visited Toronto (albeit not during the World Cup), I don’t see that it’s so far different from similar US cities.

    In a way, that’s good for MLS, because it means it can be replicated in the US, if management tries to do things the right way. Early season ticket sales in Seattle certainly suggest that Toronto’s success has as much to do with good management and timing as it does with any mystical quality attached to Canada or Toronto.

  6. bgnewf says:

    TwistedTidings , here is how you replicate the TFC atmosphere:

    1) Soccer specific stadia

    2) Build it in the city near transit. The suburbs bring out soccer moms, and not hardcore fans. Sorry but Carson and New Jersey do not cut it.

    3) Build the stadium just big enough to create sellouts and ticket scarcity

    4) Do not pander to the fans. No music, no cheerleaders, no silly promotions. The game and the atmosphere should be enough.

    5) Encourage the Supporters to do their own thing- TFC has U Sector, The Red patch Boys, The Southside Jumpers, Tribal Rhythm Nation and the North End Elite and other groups that organically create the atmosphere within the ground and do not need to be told what to do. Chicago’s Section 8 and DC’s Screaming Eagles are top class firms as well. Copy what they do.

  7. Yang says:

    Yeah, Chicago and DC’s supporters are great as well. Here’s to hoping that MLS continues to grow in support continent-wide because it’ll simply be more fun for us TFC fans if there are more people out there to cheer against and share pints with.

  8. Matt says:

    bgnewf, a stadium in Manhattan is simply not practical financially. Having the new RBNY stadium right off the PATH train in Jersey will be a huge improvement. Until then, attendance will be poor and the atmosphere will follow suit.

  9. Steve says:

    I’m not sure what it is but there is enough of a difference between Canada and the US that fuels this.

    Toronto has the same struggles with the Blue Jays that we have with our MLS teams and that franchise is certainly not fly by night.

    Good for TFC and their fans, we’d all loive to have what they have down here.

  10. I really don’t think it’s any cultural difference between the US and Canada.

    Soccer isn’t more popular in Europe because the French eat cheese, the English like real ales and the Dutch bike. It’s popular because it’s grown there historically, coupled with some clever marketing when the sport hit a rough patch (e.g. the creation of the premiership, using many of the marketing lessons of the NFL).

    If Canada is more receptive to soccer because of its culture, why has soccer actually historically done worse in Canada than the US?

    So I really don’t think that’s it– I think the factors that bgnewf mentions definitely are part of it. Section 8 and the Barra Brava definitely do a great job, so it’s not like Toronto’s supporters corner the market on frenzied support, but it’s still fair to say that Toronto’s management has made a lot of good choices.

  11. Jeff says:

    bgnewf made some great points on ways for American teams to improve the overall experience of a MLS game. Toronto also has an advantage that other Canadian cities and some American cities have is 2nd and 3rd generation descendant European immigrants(British, Italian, Portuguese & Eastern Euros.) with a hunger to follow a team passionately just like their families still or once did. Something to call their own!

  12. Eric K says:

    I think the fan support up in Toronto has a lot to do with marketing the team correctly in the first place. I’m sure this has been said a thousand times elsewhere already. MLS went after the ‘family-friendly’ crowd for too long. Serious soccer fans didn’t take it seriously. Look, if you can see the world’s best games on TV in your own home, if you’re a serious fan you’re going to go to your local MLS game for the atmosphere. Serious fans aren’t going to take it seriously if it’s presented like arena football or minor league baseball. That’s not to say there can’t be parts of the stadium where it’s easier to bring the kids. But letting the serious supporters create the atmosphere draws even more people in who want a part of the action, if in many cases at an arm’s length. A lot of MLS teams are still trying to catch up to this after turning off a lot of fans in the past. TFC did this right in the first place, and I expect that Seattle and Philly will follow suit. TFC said it themselves recently that they looked at what worked and what didn’t work elsewhere and learned from that. This isn’t to say that some places haven’t done well too – Chicago, DC, and Houston really come to mind. And the atmosphere isn’t the only issue with garnering attention and fans.

  13. Yang says:

    In response to TwistedTiding when he said: “If Canada is more receptive to soccer because of its culture, why has soccer actually historically done worse in Canada than the US?”

    This is a very simple question to answer:

    A) Smaller talent pool.

    B) Hockey.

  14. Yang says:

    P.S. And also, I should have mentioned, it isn’t Canada that is more receptive to soccer, it’s really just Toronto and most major Canadian cities (Montreal, Vancouver, etc.) we’re talking about here.

  15. Yang, ok– if *Toronto* (not Canada as a whole) is more receptive to soccer culturally, why has soccer failed in the past in Toronto compared to the US?

    If you say it’s because hockey is important in Toronto, doesn’t that undercut the idea that there’s a soccer culture? Even if you think soccer’s been less popular in Toronto in the past than in the US because of hockey, don’t you think the sports landscape in the US is even more crowded? I’m not sure that’s it at all.

  16. Ossington Mental Youth says:

    Yang/Twisted Tidings,

    You both forgot the most important reason as to why soccer hasnt taken off in this country, The CSA.

    The US has done an amazing job of training players and creating an info structure.

    Canada has not, we ship em out.

    Thank god thats not going to last.

  17. drogbadives says:

    It is not that soccer is more popular in Canada. Both USA and Canada have pockets of soccer interest. Toronto is one of those, as is New York, Philly, Boston, Seattle, LA, Houston, Portland, etc. The difference between Toronto and these cities is that MLSE approached the team the right way. If New York had an SSS in NYC and good marketing, they would rival TFC in fan support.

    Look at it this way, if Toronto came into MLS in 1996 as the Toronto RhythymStrikers while playing in Rogers Centre with football lines and goofy marketing efforts then I think they would be similar to American markets in terms of success.

  18. Modibo says:

    Yang,

    “vibrant immigrant community” = just about any large North American city – think about the other cities in the league: Chicago? NY? LA? DC? SF/San Jose? Dallas? Houston? Boston? Even cities like KC and Columbus have large Latino populations. I agree with other posters that there’s more to it than that…

    One key is the unwritten story that this blog brings up: the transit strike. It highlights the accessibility of the stadium. This weekend I went to the Fire game on a beer bus (alright the Fire calls it a “fun bus” – whatever), and including my El ride, it took me four hours to get to the game (the “fun bus” apparently needed maintenance) and three hours to get back. And I live in Chicago, not a suburb. Because I went with my wife, that meant spending over $100 on a babysitter. When games were at Soldier Field I would ride my bike half an hour and be there – or take CTA and be there in forty-five minutes. I think I’m more than a casual fan but I can only get to one or two games a year because it’s so far away on public transit.