Three points were hardly expected from Toronto FC in Colorado on short rest.
The ridiculousness of Thursday-Sunday scheduled games at this point of the season put Toronto up against it. Too many mistakes and continued sloppy play sealed the clubís fate.
Toronto was always second best in the 3-1 loss, their third loss of the season, all on the road. Yet, for 70 minutes, a great escape with a point seemed realistic.
And despite being out-played everywhere on the park, some at TFC will feel hard done by officiating.
Defender Adrian Cann was whistled for a handball in the box in the first half. Replays indicate the referee got it right, as the ball caromed off Cannís head and arm while helpless on the ground after a sloppy challenge.
You can hardly blame the referee for pointing to the spot. Cann put himself in a terrible position. Nothing good can happen going to the ground inside your own penalty area. Call it poor defending or bad luck, Cann knows better.
The talking point for Coloradoís second goal will be Julian de Guzman breaking formation in the wall, leaving his goalkeeper Stefan Frei helpless to the free kick. In fairness, a bigger issue than de Guzman or the fact the wrong players were in the wall is conceding the free kick in such a dangerous position in the field in the first place.
Martin Saric, once again, was sloppy in his challenge leading to the free kick. Already on a yellow card, it was a poor challenge by Saric at the wrong time and wrong place. Saric has shown flashes since his arrival at TFC but needs to temper his play.
Itís not just Saric. A lack of discipline is running through the side, and perhaps best explains the harsh penalty decision called on Maksim Usanov leading to Coloradoís third goal. When a team is back on its heels and regularly susceptible throughout a match, calls are going to go the other way.
Assessing the entire 90 minutes, these flash moments may have dictated the score-line, but itís hard to argue the result wasnít fair. TFC was second-best throughout and its own worst enemy.
Defensive breakdowns, the back four playing too flat, careless play in possession, and inability to create enough goal-scoring chances is becoming the recurring theme.
Itís not that the effort isnít there. Hard work simply isnít enough at this point. Wins require better quality, discipline and concentration.
These are issues that can be remedied. Coach Preki needs more time. The players need more time.
A lot of work still needs to be done, cleaning up the organizational basics to playing an efficient team game.
Until then, how strong or how poor TFC actually is will not be conclusive.
National schedule a start
Kudos to the Canadian Soccer Association for putting together a solid 2010 program for the national menís team in what is a very difficult scheduling year.
It never was going to be easy for the CSA, with the World Cup and condensed league schedules, particularly in Major League Soccer.
Yet the CSA has managed to arrange games with established soccer nations (Argentina, Ukraine, Venezuela), including games on non-FIFA recognized international dates. MLS players wonít likely be made available to head coach Stephen Hart, but the games will give many young Canadian players a chance to enter the fray. Capping potential team contributors is obviously invaluable, but so is the opportunity for Hart to better gauge how much he has coming through the system.
Remember ó this is all a buildup to World Cup 2014 qualification. And the CSA promises an even busier schedule in 2011.