TFC gets lucky ó again

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:43 PM ET

When hard work isnít enough ...

Full marks to Toronto FC for strong effort and tireless work rate against Real Salt Lake, arguably the best side in Major League Soccer.

But a lack of quality in comparison to the visitors left the Reds scrambling for a result. And without the assistance of the post to Stefan Freiís right in the south end, TFC wouldnít have even had a point to show for their effort.

The match was never going to be easy for either side, with both teams coming off CONCACAF Champions League losses mid-week. And if either team was at an advantage, it had to be TFC. Head coach Preki made seven changes to his starting 11 Tuesday in Panama, while RSL coach Jason Kreis made only four changes to the side that endured torrential rain and horrid conditions in Mexico City on Wednesday.

But the extra day of rest and home-field advantage wasnít enough to earn full points.

Itís the ongoing story of TFCís season: Work harder than your opponent, but still that isnít enough. Itís got to be frustrating for the players, knowing the commitment is there but the results donít reflect the effort put in.

In fairness, TFC was fortunate to get a point from the proceedings.

The talent of RSL, even without a Designated Player on its roster, is far superior to that of Toronto. But even with the requisite quality, itís the way RSL extends the field, moves the ball around with confidence and still remains defensively competent that separates the two sides.

It sounds redundant to say, but itís true: TFCís biggest issues remain a lack of quality in the offensive third. And attacking doesnít mean just finishing. The failure to commit to playing the ball down the wings makes for an over-crowded and unimaginative centre of the pitch.

Add a revolving door of a line-up into the equation, and thereís no wonder why the team is disjointed.

Prekiís method of filling out his game-sheet is a guessing game week to week. Even his counterpart Kreis was surprised Dwayne de Rosario was playing up front Saturday when heís been playing so well in the midfield as of late. Obviously, injuries to Maicon Santos and Chad Barrett had a bearing in the decision, but itís the lack of consistency thatís discouraging.

And the biggest reason for all the unattractive scrambles in front of goal as of result of all-too-many blocked shots is TFCís improper spacing and offensive technique; crowd the box and hope for the best doesnít count as an offensive game plan.

Acquiring another player with a nose for goal is the obvious solution thrown out there by the public. But if only if it was that simple.

Offensive creativity and fluidity starts at the back. Preki has his guys defending at all costs so much that itís a liability to any consistency going forward.

Roster composition does play a part. Failing to replace creative centre-midfielder Amado Guevara has its repercussions. But that doesnít mean TFC canít do better in attack.

Bottom line, the idea that a team can work harder than an opponent for 90 minutes and thatís enough to beat upper-echelon sides consistently is a falsehood. This is not a knock on the players; theyíre merely doing whatís asked of them.

Letís not mince words: Work rate is all-important and the commitment Preki has demanded from his players in his first year at the helm was must needed, and should be seen as a positive.

But when questioned about TFCís poor scoring record, Preki regularly speaks of not getting bounces. How about creating better chances?

Efforts from 30 yards out donít count. Chances are that such, no matter how well they are struck, are saved or miss their target more times than not.

And Saturday, Nick Garcia and Dan Gargan both had efforts on target from distance. Would any of us classify them as genuine, manufactured goal-scoring opportunities? Absolutely not.

Itís this lack of offensive ingenuity from the coaching side that has the players resigned to trying to take advantage of half-chances or superb individual efforts. And thatís not good enough.

Prekiís compact, narrow, crowded formation undoubtedly makes his team difficult to score on. Thus, TFCís record of not losing at home shouldnít be a surprise.

But to win the games that matter, home or away, youíve got to be able to create chances. Twenty-two goals in 21 MLS games is beyond poor. Itís beyond not getting bounces. Itís no commitment to create. And itís the kind of goal-scoring record of teams that donít make the playoffs.


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