TORONTO - Milos Kocic said he could feel it coming.
“Everybody could,” he said of Saturday’s 2-2 finish at BMO Field, a game the Reds led 2-0 until the New England Revolution bagged two in the final 20 minutes. “We’re just waiting for it. It’s frustrating that whatever I do every game we concede two or three goals.”
First-half goals from TFC’s Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson failed to hold up when New England’s Chris Tierney rose to meet Flo Lechner’s cross in stoppage time to give the visitors a share.
After conceding a similar equalizer Wednesday night in Houston, in his first home match following Aron Winter’s departure, Paul Mariner picked apart his club without naming names.
“(I) don’t mind players making mistakes, but if they keep making mistakes then that’s a problem,” Mariner said.
The club’s seventh manager in five years responded with a question of his own when asked what TFC’s defensive concerns amount to.
“What do you think? Central defence, possibly?”
Protecting its two-goal advantage following the break, quality ’keeping kept the Revs off the board until Blake Brettschneider pounced on a juicy Kocic rebound in the 71st minute. The only mistake Toronto’s first-choice netminder made, Kocic was under siege throughout the second half.
Toronto’s Logan Emory saved a corner of the line 15 minutes from time while New England’s Benny Feilhaber struck wood after splitting a pair of Toronto defenders in the 88th minute.
For once, although admittedly undeserved, Toronto thought luck was on its side.
That is, until the Reds dropped points in stoppage time for the fourth time this season.
“Whatever I do it doesn’t matter,” Kocic said of what was arguably his best game in his first season as a starter. “It’s frustrating because I see other ’keepers in the league make one (big) save and (they win) 1-0 or 2-0.”
It was the 10th time in 13 league fixtures the club’s embattled back line has conceded two or more goals this season — something Mariner attributed to a list of inexperienced defenders that are allowing the same types goals every time out.
Five of seven goals conceded under the new regime have come off corners or crosses into the box.
“It’s just a catalog of learning on the job,” Mariner said of his young defensive core. “(Our defenders) get focused on the ball. (Their) body shape should be open and (they) should always attack the ball.”
Toronto got off to a dream start four minutes in when Danny Koevermans buried his fifth goal in five games.
The big Dutchman towered over a New England defender to nod home the opener after rising to meet Ashtone Morgan’s top class cross from the corner flag.
In the driver’s seat, Toronto doubled its advantage just before halftime following a spirited run from Ryan Johnson, who picked the ball up at midfield before streaking towards New England’s retreating back four. The Jamaican sent the ball wide to Morgan, whose cross bounced past the first defender for Johnson to head home at the back post.
“I think they out-played us,” Koevermans said. “When they hit the post I said ‘this could be our first win being lucky’. Twenty seconds (left), one good cross and it still went in. To be honest they deserved the draw.”
Similar to the midweek match in Houston, the Reds offered nothing going forward in the second 45. Although he didn’t use it as an excuse, Mariner pointed to the MLS schedule as being a taxing task of which New England might have benefited from Saturday. The Revs didn’t play Wednesday night and have had a week to rest.
“I think we were running on fumes a little bit at the end,” Mariner said. “Three games in seven days — that’s just MLS. We just couldn’t hold out.”
Dropping points after the 90th minute three times this season, Toronto dropped 10 points back of the expansion Montreal Impact after the Quebecers smashed Houston 4-2 on Saturday night.
With Toronto set to battle its Canadian rivals in four days’ time, Mariner said he’s not worried the Reds will hang their heads.
“We’re all in it together. It’s everybody’s fault,” Mariner concluded. “It’s not just a couple of players or one player. It’s everybody.”
Aron Winter’s sideline suits have been replaced with shorts, warm-up kits and an ear-splitting Englishman.
In his first home appearance at BMO Field as Toronto’s new head coach, the differences between Paul Mariner and his subdued predecessor were clear.
When Danny Koevermans rose to meet Ashtone Morgan’s cross four minutes in, TFC’s new bench boss left the ground in tremendous voice before double fist-pumping in the direction of the press box.
“I’ve got to be because (I haven’t had) many sessions with the team,” Mariner said of his big personality. “It’s difficult. There’s a game plan put in place and we’ve got to adhere to it if we’re going to be successful in this league.”
Mariner coached from the sideline throughout Saturday’s match, telling his defence to step up and for his forwards to chase up top — directions that were audible all around the venue Saturday.
From multiple goal lead to multiple goals conceded, Mariner’s intense touch line practices are almost as entertaining as the game itself.