TFC 2010 | Week #10

TFC Shakes The Quakes

San Jose Earthquakes 1  –  3  Toronto FC

First Road Win of 2010

The San Jose Earthquakes had been on a hot streak leading into Saturday’s match. They hadn’t conceded a goal or defeat in the month of May. There weren’t many people betting on the outcome falling Toronto FC’s way. Yet, the Reds took to the field in Buck Shaw Stadium and played a solid first half without either Dwayne De Rosario or Julian de Guzman in the lineup. San Jose looked frustrated and surprised at how solidly TFC disarmed their midfield play and held up their attack. To their dismay, Chad Barrett also managed to turn a defender’s mistake into a grubby goal too. Their run of holding opponents scoreless ended, San Jose started to look  desperate and off-kilter.

There wasn’t much improvement for San Jose as the clock pushed forward. With the start of the second half, Toronto FC gained a new spark and vibrancy as De Rosario and de Guzman finally took the field. Struggling to regain their composure, the Earthquakes pressed and pushed. They even managed to generate some solid opportunities on goal. Stefan Frei, however, was impressive in net once again for TFC. When the Reds defense couldn’t hold the Earthquakes off, Frei made some vital and athletic saves to defuse their assaults.

Double Down

Ultimately, Toronto FC forced San Jose to up their ante by scoring another unanswered goal early in the second half. Dan Gargan’s pass from the back line through the San Jose defense allowed De Rosario a free run on net. The Captain netted his 7th goal of the season with a relaxed shot past the stunned Joe Cannon. San Jose’s shocked supporters could barely believe their misfortune.

As San Jose pushed more and more up-field, it seemed inevitable they would get close to scoring. Toronto FC still has a tendency to collapse deeply on its defense when holding tactically. Finally, the Quakes broke through the Reds and Frei with a header from a corner kick in the 76th minute. Seeing their chance to redeem the match, San Jose pushed their game forward. Five attacking players upfront assaulted Toronto FC for the remainder of the game. In extra time, Joe Cannon left his goal line and pushed himself into play. The Reds got lucky, as their reactive defending was barely holding San Jose off. Cannon slipped to the ground as Toronto cleared the ball free of their penalty area. A long deep pass into the Quakes half allowed Dwayne De Rosario to run in unopposed and putt in his 8th goal of 2010.

Remember Week#3 Anxiety?

It’s a long season yet, but Saturday’s road win in San Jose proves just how far the Reds have come since the beginning of the 2010 season. San Jose may have been 2009’s joke, but they have been well organized and effective so far this season under former Canadian national coach Frank Yallop. Holding off San Jose’s attack and leaving the pitch with a 1-0 lead at half was a great result for the Reds on the road. The fact that they achieved this without DeRo or de Guzman in the lineup is evidence that the roster has coalesced into a solid MLS team. With both the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew losing this weekend, the Reds moved up into second place in the East. They now only trail the Crew by 4 points.

There is still room for improvement to be sure. Defensive lapses and personal mistakes continue to haunt the Reds, and some of the younger players like Amadou Sanyang in particular. Also, Toronto FC’s attack still seems to be underachieving, with DeRo notching up most of the goals.  That said, the Reds are now capable of digging in and recovering from mistakes and challenges on defense. Chad Barrett and O’Brian White are also coming alive offensively, and are threats other sides must also respect. Overall, it’s fair to say that Toronto FC are starting to look like MLS contenders.

All the hyperbole and hand-wringing of April and early May, with the calls for General Manager Mo Johnston’s head, now seems a lot less insightful or fair. This week will see a hollow finale to the Voyageur Cup – Toronto FC are the 2010 Nutrilite Canadian Championship winners, regardless of the game’s outcome. And Saturday will be a home game against the struggling Kansas City Wizards, before the MLS takes a break for this month’s World Cup. If all goes as it seems it should, Toronto could be sitting on a 6-4-1 record with 19 points. That would keep them near the top of the Eastern Conference and competitive with the leading teams in the West as well. There’s two-thirds of the season remaining, but at this moment Toronto FC’s post-season potential looks far better than it did just a few weeks ago.

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