TFC 2010 | Week#21

Bad Day At The Office

Toronto FC 1 – 4  NY Red Bulls

Unlike the final game of the year last season, there really shouldn’t be any shame in losing to this Red Bulls roster. Theirry Henry now plays up front with Juan Pablo Ángel. And Rafael Marquez, team Mexico’s captain, and third designated player for NY, even scored a goal yesterday that will be on any decent highlight reel for 2010. Still, for any of us out here daring to hope for more out of Toronto FC this season, it was just as gutting an outcome as the 2009 closer. The playoffs were so close… and yet the Red Bulls get to dance on our cold dead corpse – again.

Et tu Robo?

No Justice

Hard as the team worked, Toronto FC could not catch a break Saturday afternoon. If all were fair, the scoreline would have been 1-1, maybe 2-1 sliding in either direction. The 4-1 drubbing the Reds endured today was a travesty. Many people will be tempted to brand this as the moment the season slid off the playoff rails and the sucky forces of losing took over. In my mind, it’s still too early for such condemnation.

Had Nick La Brocca’s hard shot gone in instead of ringing off the post in the early part of the game, the afternoon would likely have played out differently. Instead, Marquez made the MLS season’s highlight reel with a long distance, curling shot to open the scoring. Bad as that might have been for all the momentum TFC generated early in the game, nothing could prepare us for what followed.

Make no mistake, our hearts sank when Joseph Nane scored an own goal to advance the New York cause to 2-0. It was a rookie mistake, and one that really broke the team’s spirit. We momentarily regained hope when Dwayne De Rosario scored early in the second half. There hasn’t been a louder cheer ringing out of BMO this season either. But, the glory and optimism crashed soon after.

Nana Attakora apparently committed a deliberate hand ball to keep Thierry Henry from scoring, and in so doing gave up a penalty kick and earned himself a red card. Sinking to 3-1 was bad for the soul. But worse was ahead, as we were forced to watch former TFC midfielder Carl Robinson score a fourth and final New York marker. Stefan Frei’s desperation save gifted Robinson an easy header into our own net.

Toronto FC pressed and even generated a few more chances to score, but the ball just wasn’t bouncing for them. For all the effort, it seemed the play on the field would have justified a much closer score. Toronto FC managed, however, to take the short end of everything. New York, on the other hand, delivered when the chances came to them. And that is how the day went.

With such a bad result, I’m sure many will be labeling the day as the beginning of the end of the playoff dream. It is galling that this game has now set Toronto FC 8 points behind New York on the table. As it is today, the Reds are looking unlikely to make the playoffs yet again. But to declare the mission lost and the season over would be missing the other point in today’s performance.

Time to make some excuses

Toronto FC have grown and evolved this season. It is, after all, a transitional year. A new coach and an entirely new roster are not so easily set into championship form. We are lucky to even be contending when all these variables are considered. That said, there’s a quotient of ‘get out and play’ performance that has to be considered. Sadly, yesterday once again proved that this game-day variable has been lacking for Toronto FC this season.

Yesterday may have been the Reds first home loss, but that isn’t the only significant fact. If one looks past the scoreline and more broadly at the performance on the field, Toronto FC has shown it can play with strong MLS sides. The defense has shown real resolve and the offense has occasionally flashed creativity, or at least hustle. The Reds have yet to prove, though, that they can actually win when it counts.

That’s an ability that has as much to do with character and camaraderie as it does with tactical competence and raw talent.

One depressing note on Saturday for me was watching how much hangdog drooping Chad Barrett was doing as a late substitute. Normally a high octane and hard working guy, he was dragging his feet and looking sulky from the moment he stepped on the field. I’m sure there were plenty of fans left in the stands at that point who would have gladly thrown down their beer to chase down the Red Bulls through the extra time whistle. It was running through my mind – and I was wearing flip-flops.

Champion’s League Fatigue

The extra games showing up in TFC’s schedule now beg the question. How much more can these guys play and still stay competitive in both arenas? My guess is that they can only win in one. My hope is that they don’t run out of gas altogether. As much as I love the international spectacle, I would much rather see TFC make the MLS playoffs this season.

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