MONTREAL - Toronto’s circus-like collection of defensive errors continued Saturday in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact — TFC’s first loss to the Quebecers and the expansion side’s first MLS win.
“It's unbelievable really,“ Richard Eckersley said of Toronto's continuous lapses. “We've got better personnel (than Montreal) without a doubt in my opinion. No one is going to disagree with that.“
Goals on each side of half-time from Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Andrew Wenger held up despite Toronto’s Danny Koevermans pulling one back minutes before full time. It was the club’s sixth straight match without a win which led Toronto media to press head coach Aron Winter on whether he’s concerned for his job.
“At this moment I’m not,” Winter replied. “I’m still in the process of building a team … and I don’t think that something is going to happen.”
The Impact opened the scoring in the 18th minute, punishing a giveaway from Terry Dunfield in the defensive third. Collecting 30 metres from goal, Montreal’s Lamar Neagle found Ubiparipovic on the counter whose clinical finish beat Milos Kocic from the top of the circle.
Down to 10 men after Logan Emory was sent off in the second half, Ty Harden’s failure to deal with a searching clearance saw Wenger calmly finish from inside the area to put the game out of reach with 10 minutes to go.
“It’s impossible at this level,” Winter said of Saturday’s gaffes. “You can make mistakes but I didn’t like how we reacted and how we started (the game).”
With the damage done, Koevermans opened his account a minute before added time after a quality buildup found Reggie Lambe on the right side. The Bermudian’s cross rewarded Koevermans’ well-timed run for an easy finish — too little too late for a side that continues to punish itself each time out.
“We should score earlier and it will be a different game,” Kocic said. “If you have a heart, a brain … and you want to earn respect from fans, other teams in the league and your teammates, then you need to perform.”
Toronto has conceded 19 goals in all competition a month into the season, and much like Santos Laguna before them, Montreal nearly tacked on a few more after the break.
Kocic’s reflex save from a deflected cross kept the Reds within striking distance with a half hour remaining. And a minute later he managed to get a glove to Sanna Nyassi’s well-struck free-kick that was destined for the upper corner.
After saving a penalty, Toronto’s No. 1 pointed to a lack of professionalism as one of the club’s principal problems.
“You can come on the field and pretend like you’re professional, but if you don’t do things correctly, and try to improve your game, you’re never going to be better,” Kocic said.
But at some point failure to improve reaches beyond the training ground. As Winter hinted following Saturday’s loss, it’s clear that TFC’s issues at the back are due to a lack of quality rather than the club’s defensive setup.
“In the coming weeks I’m going to change some things,” Winter said. “It’s not good and I’m not going to accept it any longer.”
Seemingly more urgent and free-flowing down a man, the Reds came close to equalizing in the 71st minute when Koevermans’ low cross was cleared off the goal line by the Impact’s Shavar Thomas.
“We were playing better with 10 men than with 11,” Winter said. “We are going to try to bring in some other players. I have to because we’re playing decent but we are a little bit weak defensively. I want to win; I want to get the points.”
From start to finish the Impact played like a team desperate to climb the table while the Reds — the league’s only team without a point through Week 5 — began with no urgency. Some will blame tired legs, but Montreal had a difficult away test Wednesday in Salt Lake … Which brings up Winter’s decision to leave three players in midfield that laboured in Torreon days earlier. With Eric Avila itching for a start, the midfielder might have provided more in a middle third that was bossed by the Impact’s Neagle and Felipe … And in the second half it was Nyassi that bullied Ty Harden off the ball on the play that saw Emory sent off. A player with limited size, how does a tiny Gambian win that battle? … Now 0-4-0, the Reds are in jeopardy of being in a position no MLS team has ever emerged from. Should they fall at home to Chivas next week, no club has ever made the MLS post-season after starting with five losses … The desperation is something that energized Saturday’s derby. The liveliness inside Olympic Stadium was significant for a pair of clubs that have had next to nothing to be proud of within MLS … Through eight MLS halves, the Reds have registered just two goals — puzzling for a club that has performed so confidently in a number of Champions League matches.