TFC's goal is clear

Milos Kocic is in danger of having the worst statistical season by an MLS 'keeper if Toronto FC...

Milos Kocic is in danger of having the worst statistical season by an MLS 'keeper if Toronto FC fails to shore up its defence. (AFP files)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

TORONTO - On the way to allowing a league-worst 26 goals, Toronto FC has conceded nine times off crosses or set pieces — something head coach Paul Mariner attributes to the club’s youth.

“If you look at the team and what we have, we have got some very young players, especially in our back four,” Mariner said. “Learning your trade on the job and being in the starting 11 in Major League Soccer is hard. I thought they did well and we came away with a very good point.”

With TFC conceding five times through Mariner’s first two matches at the helm, Toronto’s new bench boss appears to be taking the glass-half-full approach, especially after disciplining three of his own players this week.

But it’s difficult to ignore such damning defensive numbers. On top of conceding three goals in six of its first 12 league fixtures, Toronto has conceded seven times inside the first and last 15 minutes of games — most commonly referred to as the worst time to concede in the sport.

Following Dicoy Williams’ insertion in Houston, the club has used 11 different players across the back so far. While it’s possible Williams might be the ball-winning centre back that will help prevent unnecessary goals, he’s far from being the leader the club needs to organize TFC’s young defensive third.

With Adrian Cann potentially out for an extended period of time, Mariner might have no option but to drop Torsten Frings back into defence as a last resort if Milos Kocic is to avoid becoming the worst statistical ’keeper in league history.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Salt Lake’s D.J. Countess currently holds the record for most losses (19 in 2005) by an MLS ’keeper in a season. With 10 before the mid-season break, it’s a shame a quality ’keeper like Kocic will have a big number next to his name come October ... It seems dropping points was a midweek theme for Canadian clubs. After the Reds allowed Houston to claw back, the Vancouver Whitecaps conceded a lead to the visiting New York Red Bulls in the 86th. Juan Pablo Angel’s winner in the 82nd prevented the Montreal Impact from stealing a point. Canada’s clubs still have some growing up to do ... BBVA Compass Stadium might as well have been Rio Tinto Wednesday. Did anyone else have flashbacks to what transpired in Utah earlier this season? To refresh your memory, the Reds conceded a winner to Salt Lake’s Jonny Steele in the 93rd.

WELCOME BACK, DANNY

All of a sudden Danny Koevermans looks like the player who scored eight times in 10 matches to close 2011.

Battling injury and struggling to find the golden touch he ended last year with, was Koevermans’ form ever really that bad?

Despite missing big chances in games against Columbus and Kansas City, in five league starts the Dutchman has five goals -- good enough for .74 goals-per-match.

Having missed a number of starts due to injury, Koevermans trails only Chris Wondolowski (.92), Kenny Cooper (.80) and Thierry Henry (1.09) in the above category.

“When you lose it at the last minute you are disappointed,” Koevermans said of Wednesday’s loss. “For me, personally, I would rather not have scored and have gotten the three points because I am still disappointed.”

Typically stone-faced when dealing with the press, the club’s Designated Player has brushed off reports throughout the season questioning his lack of production.

True to form, the selfless Dutchman wasn’t interested in talking about himself following Wednesday’s draw.

REMEMBER WHEN ...

We thought the Reds would be a deep squad. With two new backs — Geovanny Caicedo and Miguel Aceval — and some positive re-signings, depth wasn’t supposed to be an issue in 2012.

But as Caicedo “quit,” Aceval was incarcerated, Cann re-injured his knee, Aaron Maund under-performed and Logan Emory fell out of favour, the club’s back four is once again in disarray.

Where else in the league are two academy prospects starting at the back?


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