Sunday, March 27, 2011

Toronto FC - Portland Timbers (26-03-2011)

Although the Timbers lost their first MLS game comprehensively, I decided to also make the 900 km (570 miles) drive up to Toronto to support the team in their second game. I drove up on Friday to find Toronto still snowy and ice cold. On Saturday I arrived at the stadium over an hour before kick-off (@ 2 PM) and parked my car for a steep $13 (Canadian) at the parking lot in front of BMO Field.

While freezing, it was already buzzing in and around the stadium. Having lost their first game away against Canadian rival, and newbie, Vancouver Whitecaps, TFC fans were nevertheless happy to start their fifth MLS season at home. I went to the ticket office and, after a lot of complications, bought a ticket for section 104, the away supporters section. It costs a good $43 Canadian ($44 American).

As I walked around the stadium, I saw only people in red and white. Inside the stadium, it wasn’t different. Even in the away section, an hour before kick-off, the few people already there were home fans. I decided to walk around a bit more, and make a stop in the toilet, where I saw the following funny thing.

As I wondered around, I met a small group of Timbers fans: two who drove up from Buffalo, New York, and one from Portland. Oddly enough, there was also a Sounders fan from Portland (nice guy, but I still don’t know why he was there). Several times TFC fans would come up to us and welcome us to the MLS and/or to Canada.

Just before kick-off I returned to the ‘visitors section’, which was packed with home supporters. As all games between an American and Canadian team, the game was preceded by two national anthems. I was surprised to see that the Canadian were singing their anthem with even more pride than the Americans normally do.

BMO Field is a soccer-specific stadium close to the center of the city, with a capacity of 23.000, which opened in 2007. For this first game against the Timbers 20.084 had found their way to the stadium, braving exceptionally cold weather (freezing and windy). The club had made red-white flags available for all fans, which they happily waved at the beginning of the game. Overall, the fans were not very loud, and only “Toronto’s Elite” were singing some songs.

The game started bad for the Timbers, where particularly the defense excelled in mistakes. In the second minute a defender headed the ball directly on the foot of a Toronto striker, who fortunately short straight at the Timbers goalie. Various individual mistakes followed and in the 15th minute the hosts finally capitalized on it: 1-0.

In the 18th minute the Timbers finally got a nice opportunity, with a free kick at 18 meter from the goal, which was kicked blindly into the wall. And while this started several minutes of Timbers pressure, real chances were hardly created because of terrible final passing. Among the few notable events were a scuffle between players in the 33rd minute and a free Portland header (which went well over) in the 38th minute.

The first half slowly dragged itself to its end. The home fans created little atmosphere and the football wasn’t keeping us warm either. Toronto didn’t dominate Portland, but it had little problem keeping its 1-0 lead. The Timbers still played naïve, but weren’t tested much. 1-0 was a reasonably fair half time score.

In the second half I joined the nine Timbers fans at the top of section 104: two from DC, two from Chicago, and two groups of in total five from Portland. Exposed by the biting wind, we tried to stay warm by singing songs and engaging in friendly banter with a small group of (sometimes) singing home fans a couple of rows lower.

Portland had more of the ball in the second half, but too often all players went into the middle, which left no space for a good attack. One exception was a good attack in the 68th minute, which ended with a shot in the side net. Unfortunately, a minute later this was followed by a great shot from far out, which went over the Portland goalie who stood way too far away from his goal: 2-0. Except for a second yellow card for a TFC player several minutes before the end of the game, that was the last notable action of the game.

Toronto FC has started its fifth MLS season with a victory over an even weaker team, but will undoubtedly end in the lower range of the table. While it has a solid support base, and really nice fans, there is not too much atmosphere in the stadium. Hopefully this will change in the future, so that it will become a stronghold in the MLS.

1 comment:

per head said...

Wow you paid $13 per hours. I think that it is a lot of money but the weather can help it. At least you enjoyed the game.