Hello readers and welcome back to my Football Manager Story featuring Toronto FC. A few days off work coupled with some heavy rain meant some extra FM time so here I am with another update. As we begin this final edition of the 2017 season Toronto are looking good for the MLS play-offs but have a hectic Fall Schedule which features 4 NACL games as well.
We began the Fall season with a comfortable win over San Jose thanks to a brilliant performance by skipper Ethan White who scored 2 and was rock solid in defence. This win would give us an automatic Eastern Conference semi-final berth. We then waited two weeks for our next game due to internationals and surprisingly crashed at home losing 3-1 to Salt Lake after taking the lead through a 30 yard strike by winger Rick Verbeek. Seems the break didn’t do us any good at all.
Four days later and Mexican side Club America arrived at BMO Field for a Group A NACL clash. The visitors immediately dominated the game putting pressure on the back four especially after we lost Ethan White to injury early on. Thirty minutes in and America went ahead with a glancing header at the near post from a corner. Unexpectedly we bounced back with a goal of our own before half time with Bianchi heading in. Along range effort on the hour mark put the Mexicans back in the driving seat which seem to deflate the team…but not for long. In the 68th minute DiPlacido came on as a sub and three minutes later he went on a scintillating run from just inside America’s half and buried the ball into the corner of the net to make it 2-2 and that’s how the game would end and I was proud of our performance overall.
A fully fit David Morgan on the plane to Seattle paid dividends on the field as the youngster bagged himself a brace – including an exquisite diving header that has to have been the best I’ve seen and a perfect corner allowed Bianchi to head home the third. On the opposite coast a last minute penalty converted by DiPlacido gained all three points in a vital NACL match up with the New York Red Bulls. In a crazy game at BMO field which included 11 bookings and two Red Cards (we finished with 8 on the field) youngster Edgar Ballon stole the show with a last minute shot into the roof of the net for a 1-0 win.
Those three wins in row came at a price as the injury roster continued to grow with 7 first team players on the list.
We stayed at home for our penultimate NACL game hosting Cost Rican side Saprissa. Harry Kane gave us an early lead with a lovely curling shot from the left side of the box that flew past the keeper who had no chance of stopping it. Aside from a couple of defensive hi-cups we very much controlled the game though Saprissa were reluctant to give up any more ground. The introduction of Adam Jackman late in the game provided enough speed down the right to unsettle our opponents and eventually created goal number two with DiPlacido side footing into the net.
The win ensured our passage through to the quarter-finals next March with a game to spare.
**New York fired their manager!
The two games leading up to the international break saw a first class performance at BMO Field with Adam Jackman running riot down the right flank setting up two goals and grabbing the other two himself. In the US capitol we were just plain unlucky, hitting the woodwork twice and having three attempts cleared off the line against second place (Eastern Conference) DC United.
There was more bad news in terms of injuries as David DiPlacido broke his ankle whilst on duty for Canada and will miss the remainder of the season which is a huge blow to out title hopes.
Canada’s poor form in the Gold Cup continued on through its World Cup campaign losing five straight games. The 4-0 loss to Costa Rica would prove to be the final nail in the coffin for head coach Nick DiSantis.
With CV’s pouring in from around the world I quickly faxed mine off to the CSA headquarters in Ottawa and……
** Authors note
Finally after so many successful seasons in the MLS I’ve reached what I set out to achieve as mentioned in the very first post of this story….
“In real life I have dual citizenship so I’ve selected myself as Canadian for this story which hopefully will lead to my ultimate goal that being appointed as Canadian National Coach and taking Team Canada to the World Cup”
I must admit I thought I was never going to get the role and now I have I’m just happy to be the successful candidate even if Canada don’t make to the 2022 World Cup. After such a long wait I’m considering this “Mission Accomplished” for my story no matter the outcome.
My fist game in charge of Canada was in Montreal where we played our final qualifying game for the World Cup against Jamaica. With both sides having been eliminated already this was all about pride and Gershon Koffie restored some of that with a spectacular 35 yarder mid-way through the second half.
The win would be enough to leap frog Jamaica and avoid coming last in the table.
With a massive 14 point gap between us and winners Mexico there’s a lot of work ahead if we are to be anywhere near that level of competency. The rebuild will start now with some changes for our upcoming friendlies in November.
The final four games of the regular season went pretty much as expected due to injuries and having to play all the games within a week. Nate Murphy got his first ever goal for the club and the winning one too over New York and then of course joined our injury roster immediately afterwards. I was surprised that the lads managed a draw with America considering our fitness but there wasn’t really anything to play for in this game. Striker Richard Hunt finally scored after 10 hours of play to secure a point in our last match away to Philadelphia.
Even though we drew three of our four remaining league games it was still enough to lead the overall MLS Standings and claim the Supporters Shield for the third time in my career having done it back to back with Vancouver in the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Top spot meant straight into next seasons NACL group phase.
Eastern Conference Semi-Final 1st Leg
Having already won the conference with 8 games left we travelled to Texas for the first leg of the semi-final which had matched us up against Dallas and we got off to a great start as an early shot by Richard Hunt was pushed away by the Dallas keeper into the path of the oncoming Harry Kane who blasted the ball home. The lads were playing like they were at BMO Field finding lots of space and confident on the ball, which eventually led to a second goal on the stroke of half time with another powerful effort by Kane picking up a through ball from Gershon Koffie. The second half gave an equally commanding performance but it wasn’t until for final whistle that we added a third with Hunt converting from the spot.
Eastern Conference Semi-Final 2nd Leg
At BMO Field it was Dallas who looked much more like the home side as a lazy first half saw numerous chances for Dallas and they took the lead in the 21st minute with a long ball over the defence that caught everyone out except the Dallas striker. A counter attack led by Verbeck and finished off by opposite winger Jackman fashioned the equalizer just before the interval. We were more aggressive in the second half taking the lead off a free kick headed in by Nordstrand with 7 minutes left. Tactical substitutions to avoid injuries back-fired as we conceded two goals in 2 minutes but we had done enough to reach the conference final.
Eastern Conference Final
A full house of 20,000 saw Harry Kane give us the lead after 19 minutes with a blistering effort off a through ball by young Chilean Guillermo Cerna who would go on to have an outstanding game –dominating the midfield for the full 90 minutes. DC were never really in contention and even though they pulled a goal back after Hunt had put us two up the result was never in doubt with our boisterous fans cheering us on to the final where we will meet Vancouver….naturally!
It was back to international duty and a revamped senior squad did rather well over two friendlies with a win at home over San Marino and a tidy draw in Venezuela.
MLS Cup Final
From about the end of May it was always on the cards for an all Canadian final and sure enough we marched out onto Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado to face Vancouver. Richard Hunt gave us the lead after 23 minutes off a blistering run and cross by Jackman which set the game up nicely for a classic final. But it wasn’t. The game immediately fizzled out disappointing the 18,000 fans on hand though that single goal in the first half meant back to back MLS Cups for Toronto and my seventh in a row.
That win also ensured I overtook Bruce Arena as the all-time top manager in North America.
So that’s it – another MLS title which I’m really suprised about considering all the injuries but on the other hand shows there is depth in this squad.
Now where does this story go from here?
I plan to stay with Toronto at least until our run in current NACL tournament is over as we are in the quarter-finals after which I will resign and focus on the the Canadian national team as that was the overall goal for this story.
Thanks very much for reading this update and I look forward to your comments.
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