Kick Off: Avila calls TFC's miserable start a "nightmare"
Another week, another defeat for punchless Toronto FC.
The Canadian club made history on Saturday, but not the kind that anyone within the organization would have hoped for, as D.C. United’s 2-0 victory against Aron Winter’s side gave Toronto the unenviable distinction of owning the worst-ever start to an MLS campaign with eight straight losses.
“It really does feel like a nightmare,” Avila told the Toronto Star. “It’s really hard. After the game you just want to go and cry and hide.”
Of course, the Reds can't hide from their horrid play thus far this season are now just two defeats short of tying Real Salt Lake’s mark for longest losing streak in league history, leaving media to contemplate what factors and decisions have caused what has quickly become a traumatic scenario for everyone involved.
A major bone of contention for Toronto FC players and fans was the cautious gameplan employed by Winter. Even former TFC standout and current D.C. United player Dwayne De Rosario was surprised by his former team’s defensive approach: “You’re 0-7, why not go for the win?” he told The Washington Post. “It’s supposed to be attacking-style football. It was difficult for us to break down but they didn’t pose a threat going forward.”
Before Toronto FC return to MLS action, however, they'll have an opportunity to redeem themselves in their fans eyes – temporarily at least – when they take on the Impact in the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday (8 pm ET) with a place in the final on the line. Winter's side drew 0-0 in Montreal last week in the competition's opening match, leaving themselves with a must-win scenario as they battle for the place in the CONCACAF Champions League awarded to the tournament winner. On the other side of the bracket, the Vancouver Whitecaps host FC Edmonton on Wednesday (11 pm ET) holding a 2-0 lead earned in last week's first leg.
Unlike Toronto, the Whitecaps seem to have found a recipe for success after struggling in their 2011 expansion season. Vancouver knocked off the Western Conference-leading San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 on Saturday via a stoppage-time goal from striker Eric Hassli (WATCH HIGHLIGHTS), leaving the ‘Caps in fourth place with games in hand on the leaders (FULL MLS STANDINGS).
That level of success is a far cry from last season, when the club tied for the worst record in MLS, and the media has taken notice, playing up the team’s growth by profiling the project chief executive John Furlong has taken on in British Columbia: “We want to be that franchise that people look at and say, ‘I'm with them,' ” Furlong told the Globe and Mail.
One of the crucial pieces of Martin Rennie’s rebuilt squad is Young-Pyo Lee, who made a financial sacrifice to play in Vancouver for the sake of his family and personal life: “I heard a lot of good things about Vancouver, but I’ve found out it’s even better than I heard,” he told the Vancouver Sun.
Meanwhile, in Montreal, the Impact have nearly sold out Olympic Stadium for next Saturday's game against the LA Galaxy. Only 10,000 tickets remain for the clash, a game that Montreal will believe they can win after knocking off Sporting KC at Livestrong Sporting Park this weekend as LA was losing 1-0 at home to the shorthanded New York Red Bulls. LA will come to Quebec boasting a roster that includes three Designated Players, a theme sure to resonate in Montreal, where media is calling Impact target Marco Di Vaio the "ideal DP."
LA will make the long trip to Canada with plenty on their minds after suffering another home defeat and failing to convert the numerous chances they created. That futility in front of goal is starting to weigh on the defending champs, especially David Beckham: “It's getting even more frustrating week after week ...,” Beckham told ESPN Los Angeles. “We keep saying we're not worried about it. It's got to come a point where we need to be worried about it, and we're close to that now.”
Great Britain Olympic manager Stuart Pierce was in the crowd Saturday and Beckham admitted it "wasn't the prettiest of matches for him to come to." Saturday included, 2012 has generally brought a huge departure from last season's form, as one columnist pointed out, On Saturday, it was Joel Lindpere who spoiled LA's home-field advantage, scoring the game's lone goal and working from his preferred central midfield spot.
Across the hallway at The Home Depot Center, Chivas USA manager Robin Fraser got a vote of confidence from general manager Jose Domene after yet another home defeat: "Look, Robin is our coach now," Domene told the Los Angeles Times. "We have a plan and we have a project. And everything else is just speculation. The fact of the matter is, in this league what's worked is consistency."
Up the road in Seattle, the Sounders defeated Philadelphia 1-0 this weekend without starting goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who was out with a right hip injury. Bryan Meredith deputized well for the Austrian, a scenario likely to play out a few more times before Gspurning returns after Seattle manager Sigi Schmid said his first-choice netminder could be out through the end of May.
The Sounders were nearly forced to play a man down for an hour against the Union after rookie Andy Rose made an ill-advised tackle that appeared to merit a second yellow card. Referee Ricardo Salazar didn't reach into his pocket, despite protests from the Union, allowing the rookie to stay on the field. It seems Sounders fans didn't agree with that decision, even if they were relieved to see Rose emerge unscathed, as a poll at the Seattle Times revealed a majority thought Rose should have been sent off.
Things aren't quite so rosy for Seattle's Cascadia rivals, as Portland's slow start has the club pointing to a 0-0 draw against the Crew as a sign of progress (PHOTO GALLERY). Any immediate progress Jon Spencer's side makes will come without forward Bright Dike, who will join the LA Blues on loan, according to reports.
The Crew were missing a stalwart against the Timbers this weekend, as defender Chad Marshall was held out as a precaution after taking a ball to the head in training on Friday. Manager Robert Warzycha was short on details and didn't say when the central defender might return.
Thankfully for Schellas Hyndman and FC Dallas, the case of turf toe that kept Brek Shea out of Sunday night’s 2-0 loss to Colorado shouldn’t keep him out for long. Hyndman said he expected Shea to be available for Dallas’ midweek matchup with Seattle after keeping him out of the 18-man roster against the Rapids: “With the three games coming up this week, it was really hard to not be able to count on him for the next two. So we did the safe thing and gave him a little bit of a break.”
In Houston, excitement is building as the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium rapidly approaches. The Houston Chronicle is doing it's best to cover the build up from every angle, publishing stories detailing the events leading up to the construction of the venue, Brian Ching and Brad Davis' perspective on the facility and the role new and refurbished stadiums are playing in MLS as a whole.
The semifinalists in the Mexican playoffs are set, as Herculez Gomez's Santos Laguna are joined by Monterrey, Club América and Tigres UANL in the hunt for the title. Santos will face Tigres, while América and Monterrey face off in the other semifinal. The first of the two-match series are set to be played on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Italy crowned its champion this weekend, as Juventus completed an unbeaten season to claim the Scudetto.
Manchester City took a huge step toward capturing a league title as well, although the English champion won't be decided until the Premier League's final matchday. Roberto Mancini's side knocked off Newcastle 2-0 and can win the title with a victory against QPR next weekend.
Staying in England, Clint Dempsey scored his 17th goal of the EPL campaign via a pinpoint free kick into the top corner (WATCH THE GOAL).
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