Saturday’s goalless match at BMO Field featured two teams that were more concerned about departing pointless than moving up the conference table.
“It’s good from a numbers perspective,” Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes said. “It’s the last of our 10 games on the road. A clean sheet for us was good.”
And for Toronto?
“Good,” head coach Aron Winter said. “If you compare now with last week, it was very good.”
But trotting out TFC’s reserve team against the league’s bottom club would have produced a better result than last week’s 6-2 drubbing at the hands of the Philadelphia Union.
And although a point against Kansas City keeps the Reds a win out of the conference’s third automatic playoff spot, dropping more points at home against a team that has amassed 40,000 km while traveling to 10 straight road destinations is not a positive.
Winter pointed to a number of absences and injuries in shaping his positive outlook on the result, but it shouldn’t go unstated that Kansas City was without four regulars due to international call-ups.
“If you watch the game, we didn’t create a lot of opportunities,” Winter said. “But we didn’t give anything away and that’s very good.”
But in a contest between a pair of clubs that have conceded a lot of goals this season, other than a few long-range efforts from Maicon Santos and Mikael Yourassowsky, TFC has to be concerned with its inability to produce anything in front of goal.
While TFC’s defensive shape was excellent Saturday, there’s a difference between holding Sporting to a scoreless draw and competing with a further depleted defensive core — something that’s a concern heading into next weekend’s game in L.A.
With Dicoy Williams away and Adrian Cann out with a season-ending knee injury, the Reds will be keeping an eye on the non-contact muscle injury Nana Attakora sustained late in the game.
“I hope that it’s nothing dangerous at the moment,” Winter said. “Now we have to wait.”
After keeping a clean sheet against the Galaxy in April, the loss of Attakora would make the likelihood of repeating that accomplishment unlikely.
Confident on the ball and stubborn in defence, Attakora looks to have regained last season’s form.
The Canadian played alongside embattled Ty Harden and looked the better of the pair.
While Harden continues to struggle completing passes and keeping his shape, Attakora seemed composed and comfortable in making decisions during what was a difficult environment following last week’s blowout.
Should Attakora be held out of next weekend’s trip west, Winter may have no choice but to use TFC’s Doneil Henry against one of the league’s most potent offences.
AROUND THE PITCH
Although hesitant on the prospects of starting in L.A., Henry’s first touch produced something that brought the nearly 20,000 in attendance to their feet. What a late-game winner that would have been … The two frustrated clubs produced multiple scuffles following plays. Attakora’s two-handed shove cut down Graham Zusi well after a play in the second half. And Yourassowsky’s flagrant kick to Chance Myers in the 91st minute came for no apparent reason … Was anyone else concerned when Richard Eckersley motioned to the bench after a tackle? Imagine if TFC travelled without him as well next week … Winter’s decision to pull Joao Plata for Nick Soolsma slowed things in the final third. Soolsma did little to impress and coughed up the ball too easily.
One has to wonder if Plata would have provided the energy the team lacked in the final moments.
SAD STRIKE RATE
The Reds have been shut out in six of 14 MLS matches this season.
It goes without saying that Alan Gordon’s return can’t come soon enough. Not necessarily to produce goals, but to be the piece currently missing in Winter’s three-pronged attack.
What’s missing at the moment is the exact thing Gordon excels at.
The towering forward provides an outlet for defenders and midfielders to play into. He’s capable of battling defenders and getting on the end of dangerous set pieces.
Although big and skillful, Santos plays much smaller than a target man should. He struggles facing away from goal and fails to hold defenders off until wide players and midfielders can join the attack.
His inability to hold the ball means less time in possession and more time the Reds are having to work hard in defence.
Although just a win out of third, TFC’s inability to accumulate early-season points during a front-loaded home schedule is damaging.
Looking back, dropped points at BMO to Chivas, Kansas City, Chicago and Columbus — all games which they drew but should have taken maximum points — will be difficult to overcome down the stretch.
And with the Reds playing their next two MLS matches on the road, if there was ever a time to add to the club’s nine all-time franchise road wins, it’s now.
But those points must come at two of the most difficult venues in MLS — The Home Depot Center and Gillette Stadium.