down to hours. The three-time NASCAR champion has

down to hours. The three-time NASCAR champion has

Postautor: xsw96 » 29 mar 2018, 10:04

In the end it was an all too familiar tale that played out on an all too familiar stage. When Toronto FC travelled to New Jersey to play the Red Bulls back in 2009, the prospects of making the playoffs for the first time weighed all too heavy on the shoulders of a team that was simply not good enough for such a burden. The 5-0 humiliation that day simply rubber stamped the inevitable. The team wasnt good. With or without a ticket to the playoffs. On another October night in the Garden State, almost five years on, a different looking TFC got a similar dose of medicine. Only this time it was supposed to be different. This team was supposed to be ready for the big time. Ready for the bright lights. Instead, they arrived back to their hotel in Hoboken, where the lights of Manhattan glisten in the distance, closed the curtain on the dream and fell asleep pondering a failed season. A bloody big disappointment. More finger pointing. Some will say what else could have MLSE have done, after all they threw $100 million at the team and they still failed? Its a lovely round number that adds exclamation marks to another season of ineptitude but it hardly paints the true picture of ineffectiveness. In less time than it takes for a mother to carry a child full term, Toronto FC had gone from Tim Leiwekes Why cant we be great? message to a season of failure once again. During those nine months there were many answers to Leiwekes question. Coaching, formations, tactics, injuries, defensive errors, flights to England, the World Cup. The list can go on and on. The main answer to his question, though, is the lack of combinations in the squad. This is professional sport, it is not like running a team on a football manager videogame simulator where you can buy a bunch of players, run their stats through a system and win games. Yes, money was thrown around but what use is it if you bring in players who dont mix? Leiweke and MLS had three golden tickets in their hands the moment Leiweke convinced the board to spend more money on the team. Yet, they gave two of them to strikers who never looked like compliments to each other. Along the way, of course, there were other factors, notably Jermain Defoes multiple injuries and frequent flyer miles, but when you sign TWO designated players to play up top, you would hope they would somehow have some kind of understanding of how to play off each other. That should, at least, have been the minimum requirement. Thirty-two games in, under two different coaching staffs, and the jury is officially in. The verdict delivered is a harsh one.... Toronto FC have played 2,880 MLS minutes this season. Gilberto and Defoe played together for 530 of them. Less than 19% of the season. The club has now scored 43 league goals this season. They only scored eight of them when the two big money strikers were on the field together. As if that wasnt a big enough problem, the signings themselves led to bigger problems. Having them both around forced the team into a system that didnt suit them and even when they did play together, it didnt make the team better. Strike one. They gave their third golden ticket to Michael Bradley, a player, like Defoe, this franchise could only have dreamed of having one year ago. Yet, with him and Defoe they failed again. Why? Another strike for combinations. Toronto FC GM Tim Bezbatchenko admitted to me earlier this season that the deal for Bradley came together very quickly and late into the offseason. The club has paid for it ever since. Not the signing of the player, but the timing of the signing. In order to get Bradley they had to move the perfect player to get the best out of him. Matias Laba has been immense for an excellent Vancouver side this season and would have been the ideal partner for the American international. Instead, the club spent the entire season looking to find ways of getting more out of Bradley and they never accomplished it. With Laba and Bradley in midfield and a healthy, fully committed Defoe up top it would have been hard to imagine this team not making the playoffs. Laba, however, is a Whitecaps player and is not returning. There will be those who believe throwing DP money after central midfielders is a waste but the modern game is so often won in transitions and having such a solid core can win a club a lot of matches. Bradley is a rare talent at this level who needs to be treasured. It is easy to say he is vastly overpaid but the truth is the club has never had anyone like him in terms of his distribution and football intelligence. Under Ryan Nelsen, he was often asked to play too high up the field, when he is far best suited facing the field where he can pass and attack from deep positions by breaking lines. Vanney recognized this but was already forced to marry, temporarily, a system that required two strikers, forcing Bradley into a midfield two. Inside that, Vanney, like Nelsen, never found the right balance for the American international because he simply didnt have the right players in the squad to get the best out of him. Strike two. Behind whichever midfield combination they played was a back four that never settled together all season. Toronto FC has had some of the worst defences in recent times in Major League Soccer and this current group is not one of them, but they certainly were culpable for much of this seasons disappointments. Full back is clearly a position Vanney is looking to evolve and his work with Justin Morrow since he took over shows real positive signs as he tries to bring a high pressing style and the need for at least one full back to advance forward to not make the attack narrow when the left midfielder, usually Jonathan Osorio, cuts in to help centrally. Defending is a collective responsibility across the entire team but it was clear this season that far too many errors were made by centre-backs. Out of the 64 starting apperances by the two this season, 40 of them were combined between Nick Hagglund and Doneil Henry, two players who played the majority of the season having turned just 21-years-old. Hagglund, now 22, has shown a lot of promise but no one at the start of the season would have thought starting him in 23 league games was the right thing to do. Henry had a season to forget with a number of high-profile individual errors and the team never found the right balance at the heart of the defence. Under Nelsen the team went behind often and recovered often. It was a formula that was not sustainable. In their 32nd match of the season on Saturday they went behind for the 26th time. They had recovered 14pts from losing positions by recovering 12 times from losing deficits, but there are only so many times you can do that. Playing from behind is a dangerous game and, the Portland match aside, they havent looked capable of winning a game they trailed in for two months. Captain Steven Caldwell is arguably the best centre-back the team has ever had. His leadership and tenacity was exactly what this team needed for many years but when Vanney recognized the team needed to play higher up the field with more tempo and an intelligent pressing game, it didnt do Caldwell and his partners any favours. They arent the most technically gifted, possession based defenders who can step up with the team. Instead, to compensate for the lack of pace, they dropped deep and into their comfort zone. Strike three. Maturing and learning how to win is what this team needs as a group. Theres no need for this team to be blown up, said Vanney after Saturdays match. It may be easier said than done. He clearly has some very useful parts to work with but some will be moved on and for the good of the team they should be. In the end it was another poor season, one where collective responsibility is needed following a far too simplistic reliance on individuals. This winter the club will need to do a better job at evaluating talent and they should start by looking at their own. Colorado Avalanche Jerseys .com) - Novak Djokovic easily took care of Andy Murray to reach the final at the $2. Peter Forsberg Jersey . -- New York Yankees centre fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was sent for an MRI Thursday of his ailing right calf, which was negative. ... as-Jersey/. He managed to save par, and went on to put together his best opening round of the year. Calcavecchia and Wes Short Jr. Mikhail Grigorenko Jersey . Bjoergen pulled away from Swedens Charlotte Kalla on the final straight to win in 38 minutes, 33.6 seconds and defend her title from the 2010 Vancouver Games. Kalla was 1.8 seconds back. Heidi Weng of Norway took bronze. Ben Smith Jersey . The 41-year-old Northern Irishman has proved a perfect fit at Liverpool since taking over from Kenny Dalglish in the summer of 2012 and steered the team to an unexpected title challenge in the Premier League last season.DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Snow made NASCAR drivers Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. no-shows at Daytona 500 media day. Newman and Truex missed the kickoff to Speedweeks on Thursday because a winter storm and icy conditions affected travel in the South and East. Newman posted a message on his Twitter page that included a photo of his snow-covered farm and several buffalo: "Stuck in NC. Headed out to check on Farm. Buffalo are happy this am." The weather caused several other NASCAR drivers to alter travel plans to Daytona International Speedway. David Gilliland and David Ragan were supposed to fly down Thursday morning, but instead of gambling on being able to get to the airport and take off without any delays, opted to drive Wednesday. They got on the road before the heavy stuff wreaked havoc on roadways. "If we left probably 30 minutes later, we would have been in trouble for sure," Gilliland said. "There was a lot of stuff happening. But luckily it was all a couple of exits behind us. We saw all the ice, snow, the trees breaking while we were driving down I-77 there." Parker Kligerman also ended up driving. But the Sprint Cup rookie made a rookie mistake by getting a late start and didnt get to Daytona until the wee hours Thursday. "We didnt get out til the midst of the storm," Kligerman said. "We literally hit gridlock. ... We had the car completely iced over at one point. We had to find a deicer. It was a disaster. We got stuck a couple of times. There were four or five overturned semis." Some drivers and teams arrived in Daytona a day or two early to avoid the chaos. Six-time and defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, though, decided to chance it and travel early Thursday. He said the key was moving his private jet to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, which was better equipped to clear runways. "The trip from the hangar to the runway was pretty exciting," Johnson said. "They hadnt plowed any of that. I thought I was in an off-road truck for a while there, trying to get out to the runway." Aside from travel troubles, here are five things to know about media day: DEFENDING DANICA: Several drivers, maybe even most, defended Danica Patrick. Seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty said the only way Patrick could win a Sprint Cup race is if "t;everybody else stayed home.dddddddddddd." Patrick refused to fire back, politely saying everyone is entitled to an opinion. Her peers were more outspoken. Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. said "it was a little rough on Danica" and added that "she goes by a different set of rules because of her gender, and thats unfortunate. It seems like shes always having to answer to something like that, and thats a pain in her butt. And frankly its just got to get old." RETURN OF THE 3: The return of the iconic No. 3, the famed number the late Dale Earnhardt drove with Richard Childress Racing, was a hot topic. Childress grandson, Austin Dillon, will drive the black No. 3 for RCR. Dillon handled the attention perfectly, saying "the legend of Dale has lived on for a long time and is going to continue to live on forever. Dale Earnhardt is not just famous because of the number." Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose father died after crashing on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, said hes "quite comfortable with how its going down and Im glad its back." STEWARTS REHAB: Tony Stewarts return to racing is down to hours. The three-time NASCAR champion has been out of a race car since crashing at a sprint-car event in Iowa last August and breaking his right leg. Stewart missed the final 15 races of 2013. He has been cleared to race and will be back in the car for practice Friday. "Its been the slowest off-season Ive ever had," he said. "Im ready to get doing something again." CHASE CHANGES: NASCAR drastically overhauled its Chase for the Sprint Cup championship by expanding the field, switching to a knockout-style format and placing more emphasis on winning. Johnson welcomed the tweaks. "I still think the way you win a championship is the same: youve got to win races," he said. "When we look around at sports, everythings changing. The Olympics look far different than they used to. The NFL is considering change. The world is changing. Our viewership is changing, so the sport has to change." GORDONS FUTURE: Four-time champion Jeff Gordon is talking retirement. Gordon said he is prepared to call it quits if he wins a fifth championship. "Go out on a high note," said the 42-year-old Gordon, who won titles in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001. 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