TORONTO - The similarities between Toronto FC’s first and “second season” are alarming.
Billed as a fresh start under newly instated head coach Paul Mariner, shocking defending, missed chances and tepidness once again punished TFC (1-10-0) in a 2-0 loss in Kansas City Saturday night.
Controlling close to 70% of possession through the first half, after countless chances went begging during the opening 10 minutes, the home side found a deserving opener on 18 minutes through C.J. Sapong.
The Reds somehow survived an overwhelming onslaught at Livestrong Sporting Park until former TFC winger Jacob Peterson’s cross found Sapong unmarked at the penalty spot before a powerful finish beat Toronto’s Milos Kocic from 10 metres out.
Toronto didn’t have a touch in Kansas City’s penalty area until its first chance of the game when Torsten Frings picked out Eric Avila behind the home side’s defence. Avila’s sublime first touch set up a shot that beat K.C.’s Jimmy Nielsen before deflecting off both posts and out.
Failing to take their lone chance of the first half, Toronto conceded for a second time 10 minutes before the break when a Graham Zusi corner found Julio Cesar all alone at the back post. The Brazilian somehow had time to take Zusi’s in-swinger on a full volley, roofing his effort past a helpless Kocic to bury the new-look Reds, who were expected to play a more inspiring brand than what they had offered supporters through the opening months of the season.
Promising he’d make changes and move the club away from the decisions and tactics his predecessor Aron Winter issued, Mariner set Toronto up in a 4-4-2 that seemed scattered and confused throughout the match. Toronto’s back four, which should have done better with Kansas City’s two goals, didn’t look any more comfortable in what most thought would be an organized and defensive setup under the new regime.
To make matters worse, Adrian Cann left the game at halftime with what Paul Mariner described as a knee injury. Cann missed most of 2011 and part of this year after tearing his ACL at the start of the season.
The home side nearly extended its two-goal advantage into a rout seconds after the break when Teal Bunbury latched on to a long ball played between Toronto’s two centre backs. Bunbury’s one-timer from the top of the box was pushed away by Kocic to keep Toronto’s slim hopes of a comeback alive.
Following its first-half misfortune, TFC nearly cut Kansas City’s lead in half at the hour mark when Jeremy Hall’s low cross trickled through a mix of bodies to the back post for a waiting Avila. Cutting his defender to the inside, Avila unleashed a shot that just missed the upper corner.
Mariner’s decision to bring on Luis Silva and Julian de Guzman with just over 20 minutes remaining provided a number of opportunities that could have seen Toronto back into the match.
After running on to a perfectly weighted throughball that split three K.C. defenders, Koevermans lost a one-on-one battle with Nielsen, whose kick save kept Sporting well in front.
Silva’s hustle provided a second chance for Toronto in the 85th minute after the club’s first round draft pick earned a restart at the top of the circle. But Torsten Frings’ dead-ball attempt from 20 metres didn’t test Nielsen, holding the first-half scoreline as a final.
Toronto next travels to Houston for a midweek match Wednesday before returning to BMO Field Saturday against Mariner’s former club, the New England Revolution.
The loss prevented TFC from acquiring a three-match unbeaten run after a win in the Canadian Championship final over Vancouver and a league victory over Philadelphia before the international break.