TORONTO - A post here, gaffe there and a missed penalty Saturday combined to sum up the first two months of the season for a club that is a game away from breaking the record (0-7-0) for worst start to an MLS season.
Toronto’s 3-2 loss in Salt Lake featured a bit of everything — failure to capitalize on multiple lucky breaks, a terrible defensive effort and a pair of attempts that caromed off the post.
Even after having two Salt Lake goals improperly called back — one for offside the other for a soft foul — it was more of the same from a group of TFC players that continue to be the architects of their own misfortune.
The Reds twice fought back from a goal down on the weekend before watching Jonny Steele’s stoppage-time winner sailed into the upper corner with just seconds remaining.
And despite the club’s front third doing more than enough to secure a point, a pair of defensive gaffes once again gifted Toronto’s competition maximum points.
When your high-priced German shanks wide from the spot — the fifth time the Reds have struck the post in three matches — it simply isn’t meant to be.
Man, when it rains, it pours. Only this shower has been occurring for the better part of six years.
The Reds have conceded a goal from a set piece in three consecutive matches — a signal players are consistently failing to win the individual defensive battles that should be basic to every professional’s game.
It’s an element of the sport that should be addressed on the training pitch. Both Chivas and Chicago buried crushing goals off restarts on the way to securing maximum points at BMO Field earlier this month.
After watching Salt Lake’s Jamison Olave tower over an oblivious Adrian Cann for the home side’s opener, it’s clear Cann’s return hasn’t stopped the bleeding.
A strong argument can be made that up until Salt Lake’s stoppage-time goal, Toronto had allowed seven straight goals off mind-numbing errors and defensive gaffes.
Until the Reds find a way to make it through a full match without serving up gift-wrapped goals, they simply don’t deserve league points.
Starting in place of Joao Plata on the left side of TFC’s 4-3-3 setup, Eric Avila single-handedly did enough to earn the Reds their first league result.
The perennial midfielder showed breakaway speed just three minutes into Saturday’s match and nearly provided Toronto a shock opener right after the start.
After a quick burst saw Avila earn Toronto an unconverted penalty, the shifty winger undressed one of the best defenders in MLS on one of TFC’s two second-half equalizers.
Add to that plunking a long-distance curler off the crossbar and there’s no reason the player the Reds received after trading away Maicon Santos shouldn’t occupy a permanent spot in Aron Winter’s starting lineup.
THIS AND THAT
While stats are usually reserved for made-for-TV leagues, when things are this bad, they can’t be ignored … On the way to conceding a league-high 16 goals through seven MLS matches, the Reds have allowed three or more goals five times in all competition this season … And TFC was lucky two Alvaro Saborio goals were called back. After conceding yet another high number of goals, TFC is on pace to concede 78 times this year — an unprecedented number of goals in a 34-game season … Almost immediately after witnessing Richard Eckersley’s own goal, Winter yanked the Englishman in favour of 18-year-old Doneil Henry, who managed to find a brief equalizer with 10 minutes remaining. Upon his exit, cameras caught Eckersley refusing to shake his head coach’s hand, ignoring Winter and shaking his head in disgust … Through 630 MLS minutes, Toronto has led for just five of them — a brief 2-1 first-half advantage over the visiting Chicago Fire two weeks ago … But for once, we’ll end on an optimistic note. On Saturday, five of the six clubs battling for the fourth and fifth playoff spots in the East failed to pick up points. All things considered, TFC remains two wins away from jumping back up into the thick of things … The Reds will make what could be their final stand this weekend with back-to-back matches against Dwayne De Rosario’s DC United.
Does Winter throw caution to the wind in Montreal midweek, or does he toss away a chance at another deep run in the Champions League with DC United travelling to BMO Field this weekend?
Despite failing to secure points two months into the MLS season, the Dutchman needs to chase a result Wednesday in the first leg of a Canadian Cup semifinal against the Impact.
While there will be calls for Winter to rest a number of key players ahead of a big league fixture, sometimes a result of any kind can kick-start a season and give a club new-found confidence in a year littered with defeats.