TFC coach calls for responsibility

Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency file photo)

Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner. (CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI Agency file photo)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:11 AM ET

TORONTO - It's not the system, staff or new manager who are to blame for Toronto FC's shambolic defence.

"It's just responsibility," head coach Paul Mariner said. "We can only set up the way we set up ... It's all about attitude. It's about wanting to keep a clean sheet."

Or even concede just once -- or twice -- in a match, especially after bagging three in one half.

"We created stuff at the other end of the field," Mariner said of Toronto's 3-3 draw in Houston Wednesday night. "We've known for quite some time that we've got to shore the defence up. We can only do that together. It's not just the back four's fault, it's everybody's fault."

Forget about diplomacy, what about that individual responsibility stuff?

Three of the five goals the Reds conceded during Mariner's first road trip came as a result of lost battles in crucial one-on-one moments.

While Richard Eckersley's extremely lax marking allowed Kansas City's C.J. Sapong and Houston's Bobby Boswell to score in back-to-back games, Toronto's inability to account for Sporting's Julio Cesar on a corner saw the Brazilian shove the dagger even deeper last Saturday.

"If we can just put the second half in Kansas and the first half in Houston together then we might be OK," Mariner joked. It was all he could do after watching TFC's amateurish defence toss away what should have been three well-earned points in Texas.

"I'm a bit long in the tooth to think that's possible," he continued, "but you can always dream."

Seems like more of a nightmare at the moment.

With three MLS clubs already breaking the 30-point mark this season, TFC (four points) is on pace to shatter a number of long-standing, dubious records dating back to the late 1990s -- one of those being goals against in a single season.

"I think for 75 minutes we gave a good show of ourselves," Mariner said after grabbing a point in Houston. "We want to try and put a smile on our fans' faces. We want to put some pride back in the shirt to let them see we're having a go for them."

Ahead of today's match against the hobbled -- and mediocre -- New England Revolution, Toronto's latest bench boss won't want to drop points to a side he co-managed to multiple Cup finals from 2004 to 2009.

After suspending Luis Silva, Miguel Aceval and Nick Soolsma following their arrests earlier this week, Mariner will have to do it without Adrian Cann, the club's most experience defender, who could miss an extended period of time after re-injuring his knee.

Although New England's principal playmaker Shalrie Joseph is doubtful, the visitors have more than enough weapons to break down an inexperienced Toronto back four that seems to leave Milos Kocic stranded every weekend.

The Revs' Benny Feilhaber is in a class of his own while French striker Saer Sene continues to have a breakout campaign in his first MLS season. As the Reds have consistently conceded off balls lofted into the box, Sene's ability in the air could cause problems should the Reds continue to grant criminal amounts of space inside the penalty area.

With defenders A.J. Soares and Kevin Alston -- a pair of players on the U.S. national team's radar -- cleaning things up across the back, Mariner said his first test in front of home support will be one he's familiar with.

"I know Jay (Heaps and) his team reflects him," Mariner said of New England's first-year manager. "Good, honest, strong and difficult team to break down. It's going to be a difficult game, obviously, but I think we might have a couple of surprises."

After witnessing TFC's game Wednesday, most fans can do without many more unforeseen, late-game surprises.

NEW ENGLAND @ TORONTO FC

(GOL TV, 5:30 p.m.)

MARQUEE MATCHUP

Julian de Guzman vs. Benny Feilhaber

It's the in-form Canadian against what might be the most complete player in the league. Coming off a brilliant showing with the Canadian national team during this month's World Cup qualifying break, de Guzman faces what might be his sternest test yet in Feilhaber, a midfielder who covers a lot of ground and is capable of breaking down a defence with his cutting vision. With Torsten Frings in and out of matches, perceptive fans are beginning to see the quality de Guzman is capable of. The hometown player was key in Canada earning a point against Honduras last week and his form should continue if Frings stays in the midfield mix. As long as New England's Shalrie Joseph misses tonight's match, shutting down Feilhaber, New England's only other midfield engine, will be key.

TFC KEYS

SAME OLD STORY: Through its first 12 games Toronto has conceded off more corners than most sides do in an entire season. Grab a hold of a New England player's jersey and don't let go.

FIRST, LAST 15: The Reds are conceding a bunch of goals inside the first and last 15 minutes of games -- something that highlights the club's immaturity. Toronto must find a way to close out games without panicking.

AVOID TRAILING: Toronto hasn't come from behind to win an MLS match since October 23, 2010, a 3-2 win in D.C.

NEED TO KNOW BASIS

Logan Emory trained with the Reds Friday for the first time in more than a week and could make the bench after suffering a shoulder subluxation ... Luis Silva, Miguel Aceval and Nick Soolsma remain away from the club as an investigation into their arrests continues. The "TFC Three" will not be made available for selection this evening ... We should know more about the seriousness of Adrian Cann's knee injury later today. The defensive stalwart was an early substitute in Kansas City last Saturday ... New England has never won at BMO Field in five visits, going 0-2-3 since 2007.


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