TORONTO - After playing even for close to an hour, exiting Texas with a share of the points looked feasible before TFC’s 1-0 loss at Dallas.
Electing to start close to the same 11 that defeated Houston four days earlier, Aron Winter knew heavy legs would magnify TFC’s depth during the late stages Wednesday night.
In search of a second-half boost, Winter pulled Joao Plata, who had a difficult time getting into the match, for a rested Javier Martina.
Looking for Martina to find the form he enjoyed early in the season, Winter also replaced Nick Soolsma with the fresh legs of Maicon Santos, hoping TFC’s late-game additions would help the Reds find an equalizer.
All credit to Winter for chasing the game and offering his substitutes a chance to produce, but Martina and Santos were sluggish in their 30 minutes of work and hindered TFC’s attack during the late stages.
After being largely responsible for a drop in quality and a number of turnovers that stymied Toronto’s attack, they did little to help a team that had life before their entrances.
Martina kept possession just twice in his first 10 touches and Santos was absent when the Reds needed him most. Once heralded as a team leader after earning the captain’s armband, the Brazilian is struggling to identify his role in Winter’s system.
With just nine road wins in five seasons, TFC have to find a way to salvage points away from home, especially when its backline avoids conceding during the run of play. As valuable road points were a real possibility, the players Toronto looked to at the start of the season let the Reds down when they could least afford it.
When TFC started its difficult stretch of games two weeks ago the organization knew it would test the depth the team attempted to address before the season.
Now, as the Reds continue to get a boost from unexpected sources, one-time contributors are struggling to make game day rosters.
Another ref rant
Add that stoppage-time penalty to the expansive list of decisions that continue to cost TFC early-season points.
Even Winter’s usually even-keeled post-match remarks took a backseat given the opportunity to blast referee Yader Reyes.
“(The referees) are deciding how the games are going to finish,” Winter told GOLTV after the match. “They are deciding everything.”
While replays showed TFC’s Adrian Cann had an arm around George John, the grappling on the play was something that is consistently ignored by MLS officials.
But a closer look examines the call before the call. TFC’s Tony Tchani shouldn’t have been whistled for the foul on Brek Shea that produced the free kick that led to the penalty in the first place.
Couple the above call with the referee’s decision to not award Martina a second-half penalty and Winter’s outrage was justified.
Here and there
It’s not the first loss Dallas has dealt the Dutchman. Winter started and scored at the Cotton Bowl in a 3-2 loss to Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 1994 World Cup … TFC sit on 10 points from a possible 30 in 2011. Through the same amount of games last year, Toronto had 16 points, including five wins, heading into the summer months … The number of set pieces the Reds gifted Dallas in the final third was staggering. The Hoops earned 10 corner kicks to TFC’s two and the Reds consistently gave away free kicks in dangerous locations. It was a matter of time before Dallas benefited … MLS sponsor Castrol released a player index that tracks player performance. According to the system, TFC have just one of the league’s top 50 players — Stefan Frei.
While a number of personalities have graced some of the league’s dressing rooms, MLS consistently lacks the flamboyant characters that are somewhat appealing in leagues across the globe.
Earlier this week the Red Bulls’ Luke Rodgers had some nasty words for the Galaxy’s Landon Donovan after the pair’s heated exchange following last week’s 1-1 draw in LA.
After calling the Galaxy goal-scorer multiple expletives in an interview, Rodgers told New York’s Metro News that “(Donovan) needs to be a bit more humble … the kid talks too much.”
The three-time World Cup veteran, who showed well last summer in South Africa, hit back on Twitter: “I’m confused; who is Luke Rodgers?”
For a league crying out for controversy — and not just Ochocinco lacing them up — MLS will promote this sub-plot before the Galaxy’s return match at New York in August.
Toronto’s rough stretch of games is taking a toll on many players who have never experienced MLS travel. Compared to European leagues, MLS travel is immense and calls on clubs to traverse an entire continent on a bi-weekly basis.
Richard Eckersley’s work ethic was visible for 45 minutes Wednesday, but the Englishman looked severely winded in the second half and never joined the attack.
Martina’s slump may be tied to the same issue as TFC has already played games at San Jose, Seattle and Vancouver.
Upon getting by FC Edmonton in the Canadian Cup semifinal, the Reds added two more mid-week games in quick succession to muddle the month of May even more.
And with a weak Chicago side in town Saturday night, TFC would normally be favoured to earn three points at home. But if Wednesday night’s tired performance is any indication as to how the weekend will go, a well-rested Chicago side might take advantage of a club that’s desperate to get its legs back.