For now, forget the Leafs, and the Jays, and (sigh) the Raptors. There was a sense of occasion watching TFC take the field last night. It helped that TFC were playing the MLS champions, and that the game went off in front of 48,000 fans at the SkyDome, but these points aside, the essence of the TFC team felt different. They looked composed: like a team ready to take up the city’s slumping sports mantle and take it somewhere new and exciting.
With that said…
Dome Away From Home
When TFC landed in MLS, the new BMO Field quickly became known for its genuine football atmosphere. It was hard to play there; more importantly, it was hard to win there. Sadly, the luster of the first few years in the league has worn off, and BMO Field struggles to retain its fortress-like aura.
Enter the SkyDome, a building notoriously lacking in atmosphere. The place was alive and in full swing; intimidating, even (imagine!). Tarted up by fans and club ownership, the ‘Dome looked awesome. In fact, the overelaborate banners and signs made the place seem decorated, almost cartoonish, like someone had penciled in an authentic football atmosphere. It almost felt like the supporters were trying too hard…or is this what a genuine football atmosphere feels like in Toronto nowadays?
On paper at least, arming fans with red and white streamers to throw (ostensibly) during the opening ceremonies was a great idea. In the end, they were about as endearing as the South African vuvuzelas. The streamers looked fantastic raining down from all levels of the stadium during player entrances, but their impact was less romantic when impeding David Beckham during corner kicks. Of course, it was fun the first time (though Beckham nearly caught Stefan Frei cheating on the subsequent corner), but beyond that, our fans came off as greenhorns. As the saying goes: act like you’ve been here before.
Who’s the Dummy?
Note to the debutante who threw the beer can in the second half: if you want the rest of your streamer-launching, drum-banging pals to think you’re hard, you’ll need to be a little braver than shamefully launching a tin from the stands - and at Beckham, no less. @footiefantasies said it best at the end of the game: “…it only takes one asshole to take the shine off of an otherwise fantastic crowd atmosphere…”
Sportsnet ISO Cam
Canadian network Sportsnet treated (or subjected, depending on your viewpoint) fans to a single camera trained on David Beckham for the game’s entirety. This was probably meant as a nod to Gordon and Parreno’s elegant film, Zidane, which featured footage solely of Zinedine Zidane during a 2005 Real Madrid match against Villareal. The pair’s film is fluid and thoughtful, and matched by an exceptional soundtrack. Sportsnet’s ISO cam, by comparison, was rickety, time delayed and kind of creepy. I felt like a stalker for the 45 seconds that I had it on, which indeed may have been the point.
We all know that Real Turf stinks, but as a grass alternative, it’s the best we’ve got. Don’t forget: this game was played on the 7th of March. In Canada. It’s still winter here, and despite the unseasonably warm match day, there’d been snow on the ground 24 hours before. Playing indoors meant that everyone was comfortable. Fine, they could have trotted out the yellow ball and the snoods to keep it old school, but this isn’t the Russian league. A big part of this spectacle was about everyone making money (including you, Robbie Keane, and the SkyDome’s capacity doubled the event’s gate receipts.
Reported to have developed bronchitis travelling back from his annual Everton stint, Lando didn’t look himself. You could see him grafting, but he was never quite in the mix in the way you’d normally expect. True to form, he got one back for LA late in the game - a poacher’s goal that silenced the aluminum throwing knotheads of the U-Sector.
TFC’s 4th overall draft pick brought the goods last night with an impressive work rate and a nicely finished goal. He’s headed for a rookie-of-the-year season and Danny Dichio status in Toronto if he can stay fit and get decent service up front.
The Match Itself…
… was fast and wide open for the most part. Things seemed to boil over toward the end, with big Danny Koevermans, silent for much of the game, finally getting going. TFC gave a good account of themselves, but were ultimately outclassed by the Galaxy, who did very well in the aggregate stakes with two away goals. The return leg should see a slower, more cautious pace from LA, with TFC pressing. We’ll better know the extent of the latter’s firepower next Wednesday in LA.
And finally…Bruce Arena
Dressing like Rick Santorum’s press secretary does nothing to mitigate the smug, seen-it-all vibe that you throw out each game. You’re a great coach, but get over the streamers; get over the plastic field; get over yourself.
Did you see something that I missed from my high and mighty perch at my kitchen table? Probably. I’m all ears. Let’s get some banter going…