TORONTO — It was not the desired result for Toronto FC, but nevertheless the Major League Soccer squad will head into a three-week World Cup break riding an eight-game unbeaten streak (including three wins and two ties in its latest MLS games).
TFC played to a 0-0 draw with the Kansas City Wizards in idyllic conditions at a balmy and boisterous BMO Field on Saturday afternoon. For the first time this season, there was not a hint of rain, just brilliant sunshine.
The match was seen as a missed opportunity for the Reds, who failed to take advantage against a horribly slumping side that came in winless in seven games. A win would have boosted Toronto into second in the East. Instead, the squad sits a point back of the New York Red Bulls.
“I take this as a loss,” Toronto head coach Preki said. “Their goalkeeper made two or three amazing saves in the first half and kept them in the game.”
Indeed, at full strength, TFC put the pressure on the Wizards early and late, but not enough to come out with three points.
“We were a little bit too complacent. I don’t think we had enough urgency,” captain Dwayne De Rosario said.
In the eighth minute, De Rosario sent Jacob Peterson in all alone, but his booming kick ricocheted off the head of goalie Jimmy Nielsen out of bounds.
Nielsen had to be good again in the 17th minute when Chad Barrett slid a pass in front that bounced off of Neilson’s foot and out of play.
Sub-par officiating took the wind out of TFC’s sails early and gave the team new life late.
The Reds lost defender Nick Garcia in the 27th minute when Garcia’s sloppy challenged caused him to stick his cleats into the thigh of K.C. striker Kei Kamara.
To that point TFC had appeared to be the better side, creating more chances offensively, but the call, a just one, though some of the Reds expressed their doubts afterward, seemed to put the officiating staff on edge.
In the 35th minute, K.C.’s Craig Rocastle received a yellow card to the delight of the 21,583 on hand, but the happiness was short-lived. The crowd nearly revolted when De Rosario was handed a yellow card while a Wizards player De Rosario claimed shoved him into another fallen Wizard, was not. That booking had followed a non-booking of Wizard’s defender Jimmy Conrad after he clipped Barrett in the face in front of his net. TFC could not convert on the free kick and the match remained scoreless at the half with two shots on goal conceded per side.
The referees were escorted off the pitch at the break by security as the fans serenaded them with a chorus of boos. Barrett, who had to leave because of a “dead leg,” and De Rosario, said the players could understand that reaction.
“Oh ya, whatever the fans feel, we feel it twice as much. We just can’t show it like they can,” Barrett said.
Added the captain: “Definitely a little frustrating, sometimes the decision the referees make affects the game ... too rash decisions, and I think it definitely needs to improve a little bit.”
In the 58th minute, a hard tackle on Julian de Guzman by Rocastle earned the midfielder his second yellow and an automatic ejection. The make-up call was the most predictable occurrence of the afternoon.
The action was not as wide open after the break. The best chances saw Stefan Frei make a great save off a hard shot dead on and de Guzman failing to convert a wide open opportunity in front of Nielsen in the 89th minute.
Knowing he had blown a glorious chance, de Guzman looked skyward after his shot sailed over the net.
His teammates surely felt the same way.