Jeremi Roth reports from Tottenham’s pre-season friendly against Toronto FC.
Finding the bus-stop wasn’t hard: young, boisterous Torontonians in red; quiet, grim men in lilywhite and blue. Each party was studiously ignored by the other. Once all concerned were deposited at the grounds, however, the reciprocal love was disarmingly simple. An old, tubby couple grasped each other, Mrs. sporting a Defoe shirt (dated by the sponsor’s logo to the CL run), Mr. proudly Toronto FC, but branded with the same surname. All those milling about the grounds, no few of whom were stealthily drinking in the parking lot, were well up for it, but none could manage more than feigned menace.
The representatives on the pitch could not sustain such comity. Much of Tottenham’s early penetration came through the middle, ably shepherded in from the left by the newly-introduced Ben Davies, who appeared to consider Aaron Lennon to be at best a decoy, at worst an obstruction. He appears capable of providing width when needed, but has clearly been given a brief that does not insist on slavish attention to the touchline only. Étienne Capoue, shielding the back four, was solid when he needed to be, but was wastefully ambitious on occasion with attempts to spring his opponents’ offside trap Huddlestone-style.
The new manager’s nominal 4-4-1-1 schema was further stretched by Kyle Naughton’s surprisingly, quietly, confident attempts to push forward on the right. Erik Lamela, the man many of the spectators sporting a cockerel badge thought never really existed, used the space thus provided to move in centrally. And indeed from stage-right to left, from whence came the first goal.
Christian Eriksen was the provider, which surprised no-one, but the second strike came courtesy of the other forgotten man – Roberto Soldado – whose running-about during the first 45 minutes could in one sense be described as distracting, but in another (much more accurate) sense, as ineffectual. Shortly after his first goal the Argentine once again made a well-balanced meal of meagre ingredients, taking his time with the finish.
The crowd, which was close to an even split, was vocal throughout. The Spurs won’t hear more vocal support at an away fixture this year. Indeed, many fans appeared to be cheering both sides, and all were excited to see how the evident quality in Pochettino’s side matched up to his counterpart’s well-drilled, but more limited crew. Everyone was happy on a glorious evening by Lake Ontario in a cozy, intimate ground. The MLS crowd even appear to be learning a few songs.
Half-time found the visitors two goals to the good, but their opponents’ 45 minutes of ineptitude made for meagre augur. Not much can be foretold from this display, other than the fact that Grandpa Friedel has heard the news of another sweeper-keeper’s approach, and decided he ought to leave his line once in a while. Lamela and Eriksen are developing a partnership that may turn out to be productive, but is already forthright, engaged, and couched in language that supporters who speak Danish or Spanish may find instructive. Or profane. Naughton’s development proceeds apace, and, uhhhh, Davies is an improvement on Danny Rose.
The second half was staffed for Tottenham by understudies, facing a side strengthened by the best of Toronto’s bench. Dwayne de Rosario pulled the philosopher’s trick of making a donkey look like a donkey by repeatedly turning Michael Dawson. Friedel, surely about to pull on a generously-measured coach’s kit, got around a bit more than most expected, and despite what his birth certificate might say, looked, if not youthful, not geriatric either. Christian Ceballos and Zeki Fryers, taking the new gaffer’s fresh leaf seriously, scurried about and limited the damage to two goals, but thirty minutes of sloth and dipshittery could not be redeemed by Andros Townsend’s well-taken, but fortuitous, late winner.
Nothing that happened brought the excitement of this clash above the most anodyne league fixture, but the word from the new world is that the Spurs’ new coach has a foundation on which to build his next edifice.
Special thanks to our forum member spurious a.k.a Jeremi Roth for his report and included photos.