There Are No Meaningless Games!
It was a nice run while it lasted.
In a season collectively of more lows than highs, Toronto FC’s run in the CONCACAF Champions League is now over for 2010, after the draw last night against RSL at BMO Field. Most of the good memories that I for one will take from the 2010 campaign overall actually came from this competition, as we have of course have few good memories to hold onto from the MLS regular season.
I will remember TFC going to Honduras and earning a draw against Motagua to get into the group stage and having to come back to do so. I will remember arguably TFC’s most complete game in the short history of the club when they upset Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul. I will remember Jacob Peterson’s goal last night which is in my eyes a candidate for TFC goal of the season ( and John Conway’s wonderful ball to Peterson that set up the goal). Take a look for yourself (courtesy of TFC- TV).
I will remember yelling my head off when Chad Barrett scored against Motagua at home. I will remember the joy on the face of Martin Saric when he headed TFC ahead against Mexican powerhouse Cruz Azul. And Barrett again scoring in Honduras to take Toronto to the group stage is definitely a memory I will hold for a long time. And I will remember of course wondering at many times during this competition about the possible. Hope is a powerful thing in sport and with the MLS season going off the rails the CONCACAF competition certainly gave many die-hard supporters something to hold onto.
I must confess I wondered at times this year what a February game at the Rogers Centre would have been like. I thought about how TFC could, with a nice run into the knockout stages of this competition, build a reputation in the region that would help the club in attracting players for the future. I even had a dream or two about TFC playing Inter Milan in a meaningful competitive match at the World Club Championship…. Yeah I know the last one was pure fantasy but still getting to the knockout stages certainly made that dream less of a pipe dream for a minute or two from time to time, at least to me.
There of course were lows as well. Arabe Unido and the officials making a mockery of the sport in our away game in Panama certainly comes to mind. Preki, in arguably his largest tactical blunder with TFC on the pitch, not choosing to go for the win away in Panama also springs to mind. Getting drawn into what was arguably, to use the cliche, “the group of death” was certainly not a highlight. Seeing how poor the crowds and facilities were in Mexico and Central America were in comparison to Toronto was also a disappointment.
The biggest tragedy of all here is that in spite of the tough draw, in spite of the tough conditions, in spite of suspect officiating and cynical opposition tactics, TFC still had a chance to get to the knockout stages in their own hands. And they once again as a team were found wanting. And getting back to the group stages next season is not guaranteed, It may be a while before TFC has this sort of opportunity again unfortunately. Toronto FC played a good game last night. The players were engaged. They played positive soccer as a club needing a win should. They ran hard and contested every ball. And yet all they could achieve was a draw, a draw that sealed their fate. Their goal came from a player that had never scored for TFC before. Once again no goals came from Toronto strikers, which pretty well sums up the problems this club has had on the field since day one does it not?
Toronto FC played well last night and were beaten by a better team. No shame there.
And now there is only one thing left to do. Arabe Unido, in my opinion the most stereotypically disgraceful Central American side I have ever seen, is coming to Toronto next month to play in what is now a meaningless game when it comes to outcome of this tournament. But it is not meaningless to me! I want BMO Field to become the place in North America where Central American sides fear to come to in the years ahead. And that fear does not just appear out of nowhere. And after the garbage the Panamanians have pulled in this competition to date I want them to know what it is to be intimidated.
Arabe Unido need to be jeered, heckled, screamed at and cursed upon as often, as creatively and as loudly as we can! They deserve nothing less than our derision. So if you as a fan have already purchased tickets to this game and you are thinking of not going I want you to reconsider your decision. To TFC I say now that this game is meaningless results wise paper the house! $5 dollar tickets! Fill BMO Field up. Give tickets away to as many people as you can so that the ground is as full as it can be. And as supporters let us lay some more groundwork for the future of Toronto FC that will help this club succeed in competitions like this in the future. In a meaningless game on a cold night in October let us all show these punks from Panama what true support really is!
I have to say that I don’t share the vitriol for Aribe. They did what countless other central american minnows do when facing superior opponents – dive and cheat and fake and cry and plead and whore. I think it is a pathetic way to play footie, but the truth is that we are used to seeing that in CONCACAF and those tactics generally only work in a game where they are trying to preserve a lead or a draw. Delay tactics don’t work when a superior team has already banged a couple past you – and that should have been the situation in Panama.
The real villain is Preki. I simply can’t grasp how he didn’t view the Aribe away game as the ideal time to steal three pts in a difficult group. All Aribe did was play a sad yet typical (for them) style of game. It was Preki who chose to gamble on a B squad. That gamble cost us the game, not Aribe’s predicatble antics.
So for 2 straight years, TFC gets eliminated from the CCL by a team whose name begins in Spanish and ends in English (Islanders and Salt Lake). And in 2008, their eliminator began in French, but ended in English.