Credit TFC's win to Winter ... and a bit of luck

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:38 AM ET

TORONTO - Head coach Aron Winter’s fearless match approach and tactical adjustments influenced Joao Plata’s late game-winner in a 1-0 win over Salt Lake on Saturday night, lifting TFC to its first league win since June.

But the match summary appeared vastly different depending on the dressing room.

“I think we did enough (to win),” Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis said, a comment echoed by most of his players.

“It was pretty one-sided,” Canadian international and RSL midfielder Will Johnson added.

As far as opportunities go, it’s difficult to argue.

Through 90 minutes, the Reds created just two opportunities inside the penalty area — a harmless Ty Harden header and a first-half blast from Peri Marosevic — while the Royals manufactured at least nine decent chances in front.

If it weren’t for Marosevic’s individual effort, the match likely would have ended scoreless despite Salt Lake striking paint multiple times.

“If you watched the whole game and the possession we had against a very good opponent, everyone is forgetting that Salt Lake is good,” Winter said. “Every game, there is progression and improvement.”

But progress in parts of the field continues to be overlooked by defensive lapses that Salt Lake failed to convert.

Toronto’s defence produced several first-half giveaways and poor decisions that could have put the game out of reach.

Mistake-free since his arrival, in the 25th minute, Torsten Frings turned over possession at the back which led to RSL’s Fabian Espindola striking the bar.

Minutes later, Espindola ran in on goal after a harmless clearance inexplicably skipped over Andy Iro’s 6-foot-5 frame.

“If we score some of those chances, things look completely different,” Kreis said. “In my opinion, again, (we) controlled the match.”

But as the Salt Lake bench boss reiterated, the game is cruel sometimes.

And all it took was a half-chance from Plata to keep the Royals winless, and scoreless, at BMO Field in five league visits.

Although the Reds failed to orchestrate more than a few chances in front, Winter is certainly correct in saying the club continues to improve at certain spots on the field.

Toronto was decent in possession from box-to-box and doesn’t resemble the club Salt Lake dismantled six weeks ago.

Look no further than Plata’s 77th-minute winner to learn of the massive offensive adjustments that have been made.

Marosevic did extremely well to hold off two RSL defenders before circulating the ball wide to an overlapping Matt Stinson. Stinson’s cross fell to Plata at the opposite side of the penalty area before he beat Johnson to the inside.

The most undervalued aspect of the goal was Marosevic’s hunger to get back into the play by making a darting run across goal that rooted Nick Rimando as Plata’s driven cross slid into the side netting.

Would Maicon Santos — the player Marosevic replaced — have offered up the kind of energy that undoubtedly created the end result of Plata’s effort?

Absolutely not.

While TFC’s defence is still a liability, even Julian de Guzman is starting to look comfortable with players such as Frings and Eric Avila sharing responsibility centrally.

And there’s hope for the first time that if TFC’s front office can track down a pair of defensive difference makers after the season, the playoffs might no longer be a distant dream.

After all, a five-game unbeaten run was unthinkable a month ago.

Fearless adjustment

Although the Reds started in what appeared to be their accustomed 4-3-3, with Danleigh Borman and Stinson playing extremely high and tucked in at times, Winter moulded his system into a 3-4-3 in an effort to disrupt RSL’s productive midfield.

While Toronto was exploited on a few occasions through the middle of the defence, the system worked well to prevent Salt Lake’s outside backs from getting forward and providing width through Chris Wingert, Tony Beltran and Johnson.

Make no mistake about it, RSL had chances it could have scored on. But Winter’s tactics made RSL’s attack somewhat one-dimensional and presented a challenge Salt Lake’s management couldn’t fully prepare for.

Quick hits

With Stefan Frei resting with a slight knock, second-choice ’keeper Milos Kocic put his critics to rest. Other than a poor decision to come off his line during a corner kick in stoppage time, Kocic was solid throughout and provided the game-saving stop on Johnson’s full-volley minutes from time … Seemingly out of the picture just weeks ago, Borman had his best outing in a TFC kit to date. Winter’s 3-4-3 adjustment allowed the South African more freedom to get forward with less defensive responsibilities. Along with several solid tackles, Borman combined well with Plata down the left side … Winter’s decision to pull Iro in the 65th minute was an adjustment that may have saved two points. Whether it be fitness or a lack of concentration, late-game blunders have plagued Iro since his arrival from Columbus … Substituting a healthy central defender is extremely unusual, but appeared to pay dividends. Harden made at least two game-saving sliding tackles following his entrance that likely preserved three points.


Videos

Photos