Disappearing act for TFC

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:10 AM ET

In the first half of Saturday’s encounter with the New England Revolution, Toronto FC displayed the kind of form it takes to win.

In the second half, it displayed the form which has made it one of the worst teams in the MLS over the previous three seasons.

TFC put in a workmanlike effort in the first half, transforming the opening 45 minutes into a midfield battle with few scoring chances, and the Reds got out to a 1-0 lead.

Then came the bad — and the downright ugly.

After playing the tactical, defensive-minded football for which coach Preki was famous in three years at the helm of Chivas USA, the Reds lost all of their composure and began the second half with one of the worst displays of soccer in the team’s history.

The result? A shattering 4-1 loss to the Revolution at Gillette Stadium. And if it wasn’t for a series of excellent saves from Stefan Frei, the Revs‚ would have been padding their goal difference.

Now the Reds go into Thursday’s home opener against the expansion Philadelphia Union as the clear underdogs — that’s right underdogs.

While Philly got its first win Saturday thanks to a hat trick from Sebastien Le Toux, Toronto’s defence was so horrible that you wonder what can be done to fix the problems in four days.

D.C. United’s 0-3 start is the only thing saving TFC from an early start at the bottom of the MLS standings.

Yes, it’s easy to say that TFC had four players making their first-ever starts for the club and Latvian left back Raivis Hscanovics had just signed with the team in the morning and was thrust into the starting left-back slot. But how could a unit that played so well in the first 45 minutes absolutely collapse in the second half?

TFC surrendered three goals in the first 13 minutes of the second half, all credited to New England striker Zack Schilawski, even though the third looked to have gone off TFC defender Nana Attakora.

The first came when Hscanovics, replacing the just retired Jim Brennan, was caught out of position and couldn’t pick up New England striker Sainey Nyassi, who blazed down the right wing and delivered the cross that Schilawski had only to tap in. TFC defender Dan Gargan, another first-time starter, gave Schilawski too much space in the box.

Veteran defender Nick Garcia then made a massive gaffe, allowing Schilawski to block his clearing attempt. Schilawski then went in on Frei alone and scored. Then came the third. Again, Hscanovics was found wanting, allowing a cross from his wing — and the ball crashed in after Attakora and Schilawski came together.

And the fourth? Nyassi got his goal after he pounced on an awful back-pass attempt Joseph Nane, who tried to nonchalantly slide a ball back to Frei without realizing an attacking player was right on the doorstep. Nane was also making his TFC debut — a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 who signed earlier this week. Like so many of his teammates, he was solid in the opening 45 and terrible in the second half.

The first half showed what Preki aims to do with Toronto; 10 outfield players focused on keeping a clean sheet and letting the goals take care of themselves. Even striker O’Brian White was back in his own end, breaking up crosses. It was proof that, yes, there may be a method to all of Preki’s madness.

The Reds‚ first goal of the season won’t get any votes for best of the week with Dwayne De Rosario, the new captain, outhustling a group of players in the New England penalty area, and nodding a looping ball of the foot of Garcia into the Revs goal.

In the end, it didn’t matter that Julian de Guzman, TFC’s lone Designated Player, had to start on the subs bench because of illness, and could only play a limited role in the second half.

Russian signing

Hscanovics is not the only new defender in the fold for the club.

The Reds have signed Russian defender Maxim Usanov to a four-year deal, according to the player’s agent.

Star Management Signings, which represents Usanov and Hscanovics — who were teammates at Latvian club Skonto Riga — confirmed Saturday that the Russian had signed a four-year deal with Toronto FC.

The club has not yet announced the signing.

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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