TORONTO - Danny Koevermans’ Lambeau Leap into BMO Field’s south stand established how much Toronto FC’s first points of the MLS season meant to the struggling target man — and to the loyal contingency that continue to support the embattled Reds.
“It’s a big relief,” head coach Aron Winter said of TFC’s 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union Saturday. “Finally some other questions from (reporters).”
Those questions changed two minutes from full-time when Koevermans met Nick Soolsma’s near-post cross for an easy finish after his initial attempt came back off Philly ’keeper Chris Konopka.
The reaction from those in attendance was as telling as the Dutchman’s celebration. Despite TFC opening the season winless in its first nine games — one short of matching Salt Lake for most consecutive losses in a row — the 18,227 in attendance reacted as if Koevermans’ winner came at the close of a Cup final.
“I think in the first 20 minutes we had four 100% chances,” said Winter, who appeared slightly irked the match wasn’t already out of reach. “You have to make a goal because at the end it was a little exciting … (Philadelphia) was close to making a goal.”
The hosts should have opened the scoring ten minutes in after a quick counter produced an odd-man opportunity for Reggie Lambe, whose original look was stopped by Konopka. With the goal open and a juicy rebound sitting at a difficult — but suitable — angle, the Bermudian shanked what should have been an easy finish.
Ryan Johnson repeated the disappointment five minutes later when a Torsten Frings corner fell at the Jamaican’s feet. With Konopka well off his line to close the angle, the Jamaican missed the frame from five metres out.
The stadium again went from a collective roar to groans just before the break when an overly unselfish Frings complicated a one-on-one with a busy Konopka by electing to pass rather than finish himself.
“In those moments, when you miss so many chances, you have to be very careful,” Milos Kocic said of TFC’s first-half dominance, which was almost for nothing at the start of the second half.
In the 50th minute, the Union’s Michael Farfan teed up an absolute bomb from 30-metres out that rattled the crossbar.
“That’s why I was mad at the guys,” Kocic continued. “You can’t play such a good game and then allow something like that.”
It was the only time Toronto’s embattled back line failed to meet Saturday’s test.
In his most complete game to date, Doneil Henry demonstrated he might very well be the club’s long-term answer in defence. Similarly, the right-sided tandem of Jeremy Hall and Adrian Cann put in a big performance to post TFC’s first league clean sheet.
“We stuck though it together and (the coaches) have been more confident in me,” Henry said. “I’ve been consistently playing and I just have to continue to do the little things, stay positive, stay focused and composed.”
Toronto’s back four held up through the final 15 minutes despite obvious exhaustion from the club’s mid-week Canadian Cup win over Vancouver.
Minutes before Koevermans’ eventual winner, Frings had another one-on-one go at Konopka that he failed to finish for a second time — an open look the Reds will need to convert if they’re to get anything out of difficult league matches at Kansas City and Houston in two weeks’ time.
And they’ll need to if any of Winter’s predictions are to come to fruition.
“Always,” Winter said with a laugh when reminded of his playoff guarantee last month.
“The most important thing is the confidence is going for everybody,” he continued. “Now we’ve got a break, everybody can relax, we can train well and prepare ourselves very well for the next game.”
Lambe’s miss was the only stain on a close to flawless first half for the Reds, who welcomed the seemingly shell-shocked Union with their best opening half of the season. To his credit, with the frame no more than two feet away, shanking wide and out for a throw-in from that distance is fairly difficult … Looking past the Bermudian’s tragic gaffe, the true brilliance on the play was provided by de Guzman, whose quick restart beyond midfield put Frings in on a three-on-one counter … Toronto’s counter for Freddy Adu? The supporters in attendance at BMO Field. Once heralded as the next best American soccer player, the eight-year pro (shocking he’s still just 22-years-old) was jeered for every mistake he made. That said, Adu looked awful for most of the match, stumbling over himself and failing to do much of anything around the area … Toronto’s German captain needs to quit kicking things. Sure, he missed a good look in the first half and should have had an assist on Lambe’s shocker, but violently kicking the goal post multiple times a game could result in a damaging toe contusion … Anyone else recognize Philly’s No. 2? League pool ’keeper and former TFC backup Brian Rowe was on Philly’s game day roster after the Union’s top two netminders were sidelined with injury.