Sure, I can watch the condensed-match videos on MLS MatchDay Live each week to scout the San Jose Earthquakes upcoming opponent, but to actually learn what’s really going on? I find that going to the source — the opponent’s fan-in-the-stands eyes and ears here at SBNation — to get the real perspective on what makes their team tick. After all, there has to be more happening around BMO Field these days then the locker room attendant busily scrubbing away the last name "De Rosario" from above his old locker.
With Toronto FC making a weekend visit to Buck Shaw Stadium — kick-off at 7:30 PDT, check your local TV listings — I clearly needed to quiz Duncan Fletcher over at Waking The Red. Duncan started the Toronto FC blog here at SBNation on the same day as myself, so synergistically, it makes sense for us to join forces and do some game previews. He provided some great answers to some of the questions I and other Earthquakes fans really want to know. (By the way: my responses to his questions are over on Waking the Red.)
Quake, Rattle and Goal! — Dwayne De Rosario is still a fan-favorite for many in San Jose, and will be missed when TFC comes to visit this weekend. De Ro's now famous "check-writing" goal celebration in the game against the Quakes last season seemed to precipitate his falling out with the club. Did the road that led to his trade to New York begin that afternoon, and what missteps have happened along the way?
Waking The Red — Ah De Ro. It really shouldn't have ended this way. The road to his trade started even before he got here with promises that were apparently made to him about his salary that just disappeared after he asked for a trade from Houston. De Ro's clearly got a very healthy ego to go with his talent and doesn't take what he views as disrespect well. Toronto FC's management has always been Galactico level dysfunctional, so the relationship never really recovered from that initial betrayal. The cheque writing incident was De Ro trying to force management's hand, I really think he thought the fans would be on his side, but instead he lost a lot of goodwill that day. From there things spiraled downwards, with both sides at fault and both blaming each other, and now here we are, he's gone, and without any kind of new contract. It seemed like it was about money being more important that staying in Toronto, turns out the desire to get away from TFC management was the driving force behind it. A real shame.
More after the jump...
QRG — New signing Javier Martina has garnered a lot of attention since coming to TFC. Talk about the former Ajax midfielder and what are the expectations for him this season?
WTR — I have an inherent distrust of wingers, skillful but lazy, all flashy tricks and no end result. So far, Javier Martina's impressed me though. Not so much with the goals he scored against Portland, they were very nice, but hey Rohan Ricketts got 2 goals in a game for us more than once. Aside from those goals though, he's looked consistently dangerous, showing a good balance between straight forward passes to keep possession, crosses in to the box, or trying to beat his man, though his first touch seems a bit erratic.
Before the season started, no-one really knew much about him so there were few expectations, now though he seems to have secured a place in the starting lineup, and he'll be counted on to keep scoring and creating chances. A lot of our play seems to involve the centre forward dropping deep to allow other players to run through into space, and Martina's one of the people we'll need to exploit that. I'm not entirely convinced by him, once opposing full backs figure him out, he could struggle, but so far he's done well.
QRG — TFC still has not qualified for the postseason since coming to MLS. Is the 2011 season a "put up, or shut up" year for the supporters of the club?
WTR — Yes and no. The club is pushing the "we're rebuilding, please be patient" message pretty strongly, and among the hardcore at least there's a recognition that we are starting again, and they seem ready to give Aron Winter and Paul Mariner another season as long as there's progress. With the more casual fans, well that could be another story. Season ticket sales and attendance are down even before the season started, another year of struggle won't help with that.
QRG — TFC's technical staff underwent a huge makeover in the off-season. How has the progress of Winter and Mariner been both in on the field performance, tactics, etc. and what are the feelings in the stands with the new regime in charge.
WTR — Since Aron Winter and Bob de Klerk (Paul Mariner's more a behind the scenes contract guy) arrived, all the talk has been of playing an attractive patient possession based style. It's still early, but results have been hit and miss so far, each game has seen some good periods of play with TFC taking the play to the opposition, but it's only been in patches here and there. There's also been a lot of the back 4 pointlessly passing it around among themselves, and in general, the defenders seem very uncomfortable, and not quite skillful enough to make the system work. This nervousness and discomfort seems to have translated to their defending as well, which has been very shaky, TFC had 3 easy games to start the season, expansion, expansion, Chivas, so I'm very nervous as to what could happen on Saturday.
The patient possession and build up hasn't quite worked out, the skill isn't there yet to be able to break down a well set and organised defence, the players seem to need to take too many touches, the passes are too slow, but TFC have looked dangerous when they get a chance to counter attack, and quickly get the ball forward before the defence gets organised.
Overall TFC aren't good enough, but there's a few moments here and there where it does look promising. De Ro's trade means TFC have lost their most effective plan B for when things aren't working out, but having to rely on Winter's system and teamplay will be for the best in the long run. For now the fans are more or less on board, but there'll have to be improvement soon.