Aron Winter’s vision is starting to come to fruition.
The result may have kept Toronto FC winless in 12 all-time meetings with the Crew, but the Reds put forth their best performance of the season during the
opening half of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Columbus.
Fuelled by the return of Alan Gordon and the creativeness of Julian De Guzman, TFC played its best brand of soccer since Aron Winter took charge at
the start of the season.
The opening 45 minutes featured an upstart attack featuring and entertaining brand of off-ball movement and possession that eventually lead to TFC
scoring its best goal of the campaign. In his best performance of the year, De Guzman combined quickly with Gordon in the midfield before lifting a
perfectly weighted pass to Tony Tchani who had made a well-timed run from his midfield position.
Tchani’s left-footed half volley from the top of the penalty area completed0 the impressive combination.
It also may have settled the controversy surrounding De Guzman’s ability as he continues regaining the form he enjoyed during his time in Spain.
TFC’s strengthened attack was due in large part to three notable changes to a lineup D.C. United embarrassed a week ago. In moving from his less familiar right back
position to an outside attacking role, Jacob Peterson looked far more comfortable throughout the first 45 minutes Saturday afternoon. Saddled with less defensive responsibility, he was more influential in the attack while still producing the work ethic he’s known for in tracking back on defence.
Having made three consecutive appearances in three separate roles for Toronto, Winter looks to have found the right place for the young attacker
who has been searching for his role with the club since his arrival last season.
Toronto’s brightest spot Saturday may have been the return of Gordon.
Gordon’s absence exposed gaping holes in TFC’s attack that hinges on having the big target forward holding things up and laying balls off to the midfield Gordon played a number of excellent through balls to Javier Martina, who terrorized the Crew’s back line for the better part of 60 minutes, setting up some of TFC’s best scoring opportunities early in the game.
And other than a mistake midway through the first half, Jamaican international Decoy Williams may be the new favoured choice over Nana
Attakora at the back. Williams was fairly clean in his first start and seems to have a working partnership with fellow centre-half Adrien Cann. He’s fearless in the air and keeps things organized along the back four.
That organization became crucial when the Reds were forced to play the entire second half a man down following a curious decision from the official
to close the half.
Canadian referee David Gantar’s decision to send off Tchani following a harmless goal celebration points to a larger problem within the context of MLS officiating.
The league’s pool of referees have proven numerous times to start the season that they lack common game management skills crucial to refereeing high-level matches.
It’s debatable whether Tchani’s “Lambeau Leap” into TFC’s North End Elite supporters group would draw a caution in most leagues, but a second yellow card leading to a red card is simply out of the question.
And it goes without saying that it quite possibly cost TFC two crucial points on the weekend.
By the Numbers
MLS referees have issued 22 red cards through 55 games this season meaning ejections are occurring in 40% of league matches so far.
In comparison, only 17% of English Premier League games have featured red cards and the statistics are similar for international tournaments.
There were just 17 red cards handed out during the 64-game 2010 World Cup, equating to ejections being issued in just a quarter of all World Cup matches in South Africa.
The numbers show that MLS referees are handing out red cards at twice the rate of referees in other high profile leagues and international competitions.
While each individual red card should be analyzed independently from the others, it’s becoming progressively clearer that MLS refs are being far too influential in the outcome of games early in the season.
Call it a point earned rather than two points lost.
While TFC observers latched on to Gantar’s puzzling decision to send off
Tchani late in the first half, the Reds demonstrated an element of the game that has evaded the club since the beginning.
The game plot in seasons past would have been somewhat predictable.
After going down a man and conceding an equalizer coming out of the half, the Reds would have folded, dropped nine guys behind the ball and conceded a late game-winner to the dismay of supporters and staff.
It was an expectation not just manifested by the fans in the stands, but characterized by the nervous play of the players on the pitch and their
inability to salvage points in the face of adversity.
But the club’s demeanour under Winter in 2011 reveals a different story.
After suffering an injustice at the hands of an official, the Reds continued to play and press for an eventual winner throughout the second half.
When the Crew’s Emilio Renteria found an equalizer just after the break, Toronto continued to enjoy decent spells of possession that helped create half chances and dangerous set pieces.
With arguably the deepest team the Reds have had in the team’s short history, Saturday was something different than what we’re used to seeing.
The tireless work of Joao Plata and the energy he brings is yet another positive moving forward into TFC’s busiest portion of the year. Look for
Plata to potentially get his first start in Wednesday’s Canadian Cup battle in Edmonton.
Similarly, the newly acquired Richard Eckersley showed well in his first outing, showcasing his versatility in stepping in as an outside midfielder
and demonstrating his composure on the ball and spirited work ethic.
While many would say TFC’s draw felt more like a loss, an overwhelming list of positives should be taken away from Saturday’s Trillium Cup match with
The Reds showed fight, composure and a will to compete for points even when the elements were stacked against them.