TORONTO - If not the worst, it was certainly the most open match of the season.
Not only was Saturday’s 6-2 home loss to the Philadelphia Union the poorest defensive display in franchise history, it may have been the lowest point for a club that continues to register inconsistent performances.
“We were humiliated,” coach Aron Winter said. “We gave them at least five goals.”
And they came early and often.
In the third minute, a harmless cross became Gabriel Farfan’s opener after Dan Gargan was caught out of position while overplaying the Union attacker. Farfan’s first touch took him around Gargan before tucking the ball inside Stefan Frei’s right post.
Philadelphia’s Justin Mapp doubled the lead in the 10th minute after his shot from distance beat Frei to his left.
Facing a club that has conceded just seven times all season, the Reds found themselves in a massive hole before most fans had found a seat.
Union manager Peter Nowak executed a defensive game plan that stymied Toronto’s attack and put TFC’s defenders under constant pressure in the first half. Philadelphia’s forwards and outside midfielders played extremely high on TFC’s back four, forcing countless turnovers that prevented Toronto’s defence from connecting with midfielders and forwards.
When Philadelphia’s Kyle Nakazawa slipped between Dicoy Williams and Ty Harden just before the break, it was all but curtains for a shell-shocked club that was jeered by supporters as they entered the tunnel trailing 3-0.
Noting poor performances from Dan Gargan and Julian de Guzman, Winter’s decision to change the pair provided a lift that saw the Reds score twice through Maicon Santos coming out of half-time.
Second-half replacement Danleigh Boreman supplied both assists to Santos in the 51st and 59th minutes after his long through-ball put Santos in alone on goal to make it 3-1. The South African found Santos on a low cross just eight minutes later to bring the Reds to within a goal.
But the energy was short-lived as Philadelphia exploited de Guzman’s defensive vacancy just minutes later when Mapp’s long-range effort found the upper corner. Danny Mwanga sealed things in the 71st and 89th minutes to make it 6-2 — a score that epitomizes the inadequate team defence that led to the Reds conceding six goals for the first time in franchise history.
And the final score could have been worse.
Winter’s decision to start Ty Harden for Adrian Cann proved catastrophic. Not only did Harden look over-matched and under-prepared, he was routinely out of position and failed to complete simple passes from the back which put his team under constant pressure through the opening half-hour.
“Adrian (Cann) has played the most games and is tired and has started making mistakes,” Winter said. “Ty (Harden) has made a good impression every day in training.”
Winter expressed that his decision to sit Cann wasn’t related to his poor performance Wednesday night against Vancouver, but why rest Cann in a crucial home match against one of the league’s best clubs when Toronto has a full week to rejuvenate before playing a weak Kansas City side next Saturday?
And with Danleigh Boreman still recovering from an absence, the decision to bring on Gargan and move Mikael Yourassowsky into midfield allowed the Union to exploit TFC’s left side a number of times and take advantage of Gargan’s mistake just minutes in.
As far as tactics are concerned, Winter’s decision to adjust a lineup that under-performed during Wednesday’s Cup final was questionable.
But at what point do the players hold themselves accountable in front of supporters who continue to witness inconsistent and lacklustre performances this season?
Following the match, Winter said he’s not satisfied with his current roster and that the summer transfer window offers a chance at a potential signing that will fit into TFC’s system.
His requirements are simple: “Somebody who can score and someone who’s a leader.”
I’m just not sure that’s the only thing this club is missing.