TFC picks up a rare win

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:15 AM ET

TORONTO - Toronto FC was full marks for a thrilling 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night in front of a loud BMO Field crowd of 21,644.

Improving to 4-11-11 against a solid 10-6-6 RSL side, TFC was the better team for most of the night, despite being outshot 13-9 — largely thanks to a late Royals blitz.

Backup keeper Milos Kocic — forced into action due to a Stefan Frei leg injury — was brilliant, stopping a handful of tremendous chances, including a diving stop on Canadian Wil Johnson and a solid punch out in stoppage time.

Toronto had finally opened the scoring in the 77th minute when Joao Plata, dynamic all evening, fooled RSL keeper Nick Rimando who had his eye on a hard-charging Peri Marosevic. Rimando admitted as much afterwards, saying he thought Marosevic would try to tap it in.

RSL turned it on after that but could not beat Kocic.

Torsten Frings was brought in to be TFC’s conductor in the midfield, but because of the style RSL plays, Frings was moved to the back.

Julian de Guzman said the players didn’t know that Frings would be moving or that the team would be playing a 3-4-3 system instead of its customary 4-3-3 until the morning of the game but credited the coaching staff for preparing the group for what basically turned into a one-on-one style of game.

The tactic worked reasonably well considering the lack of practice time, with Frings, Andy Iro and Richard Eckersley doing an efficient job in front of Kocic for large stretches of the affair. Meanwhile, Toronto bested RSL in the midfield and up front at various times.

“We won against a very, very good team,” Kocic said, before lauding his teammates.

“The team had a great game and I stood well to help them. We all did great tonight.”

Winter was visibly relieved to see his side win a league game for the first time in seven matches (two ties, four losses). Oddly, the Reds have never lost to RSL at home.

It was Kocic’s first league start for TFC and his first clean sheet in three appearances overall.

TFC’s almost completely renovated lineup looked a lot smarter than it had at other points of the season, despite the altered system.

Toronto was excellent early, testing Rimando and taking advantage of the absence of standout defender Jamison Olave, and later, the departure of another defender, Chris Wingert, due to an arm injury.

Danny Koevermans blasted a shot wide as did Plata and after a beautiful Plata setup, Marosevic got off a rocket that Rimando did well to get a piece of in the 9th minute.

Confetti on the pitch cost Toronto a great 22nd-minute chance when Danleigh Borman bailed in the box in a one-on-one situation with Rimando as Toronto got off to a 5-1 shots advantage before RSL started going forward more.

The Royals had a number of chances, most notably when forward Fabian Espindola blew a 30th-minute gimme, chipping it over Kocic and when Alvaro Saborio was denied an easy tap in by an outstretched Kocic tip. Plata fired in the winner three minutes after the Saborio near strike.

Marosevic, who was praised by Winter afterwards, along with Eric Avila, as strong new additions to the offence, said the team was amped to take on one of the top squads in Major League Soccer.

“You could just tell before the game the passion that everybody had and the desire,” Marosevic said.

“For this home crowd, nothing less than a win was our mentality coming in. We know Real Salt Lake is a great side but we came together as a group. We knew that we had to step up and I’m glad we did.”


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