The fortunes of Toronto FC could not be put any simpler than the above quote by Winston Churchill. Since its inception, TFC has always had problems with closing out games and players not covering their assignments which in turn has led the team to many heartbreaking and disappointing results.
In the five years, the Reds have changed and overhauled its personnel – coaches, management and players – yet the results still remain the same. Casual fans and hard core supporters are starting to lose faith in the team resulting in many empty seats at BMO Field, which once was one of the biggest tickets in the city.
On Saturday night it was the same old story as a late goal in the 87th minute by San Jose Earthquakes leading scorer Chris Wondolowski erased a 1-0 TFC lead. The game ended 1-1 with another victory ripped out of its collective grasp as TFC once again had to settle for the draw and a single point.
TFC Head Coach and Technical Director Aron Winter was rightly frustrated and upset with the result.
“I think that they played very well but in the end when you get only one point instead of three points it’s not good and the way we get the goal against, in three days exactly the same situation,” said Winter. “On the throw in of our opponent one of the guys is not marking and not doing what he has to do and we gave away the game so easy but if you watched the whole game I think we earned more than one point.”
On Thursday morning, in TFC’s replay match with FC Dallas in CONCACAF Champions League play, the lone goal by the Hoops was off another missed assignment off set piece. Earlier in the month former captain Dwayne De Rosario capitalized off defensive miscues to score three goals including a late tying goal on a penalty shot. Another former Red Dan Gargan was left unmarked as he charged in from behind to knock in a header. The trend is worrisome since the team has played well in most of its recent matches from the midfield out, but defensively the same mistakes are preventing the club from making any real progress. Simply put the club has taken two steps forward and then takes big step back.
“Well poor marking obviously, we are not sharp if you say on set pieces and I would say ok,” added Winter. “I think that even against Dallas but also tonight we have marked well I think. But at those moments then you have to be sharp. It’s very simple seeing everything – everything is written on the board. You tell those players so many times when we have a corner against, free kick against, a throw in who has to mark who. It’s very simple.”
“Two games, right behind each other, that you make exactly the (same) mistakes. Everybody can make mistakes but then you have to learn about it for the next time and don't do it anymore. That's why I don't like them and why I'm upset.”
The TFC players were just as upset with the situation and at themselves.
“It’s not how it’s supposed to turn out,” said goalkeeper Milos Kocic, who once again started in place of Stefan Frei. “It keeps happening to us. I don’t know what to tell you. Like I said last time and every time I think we should be more focused, hold your man, don’t let him jump. It just keeps happening.”
Midfielder Julian de Guzman has been with the club since 2009 and has seen history repeating itself for far too long.
“It’s a lot of points that we’ve given away too easily and I think you normally you should learn from these mistakes but they happen over and over again and it becomes very frustrating and it’s hard to swallow,” said de Guzman.
“I think it’s important for each individual to take a look at themselves and ask ‘how professional am I, and am I ready for this.’ There are too many cases you find moments on set plays, these are crucial moments in any soccer game that can change, that can turn things around and let that always happen to us. I think those are moments where each individual should know what his role and his task is on set plays and that one second or moment you get caught sleeping you find that ball in the back of your net. It’s just happened too many times."
For all the talk about missed assignments on the final goal there was a lot more to the game than just that one moment. The first half started slowly but San Jose controlled the play early on by making methodical passes and penetrating forward. The Earthquakes had the first good chance in the match early of a set piece in the 5th minute. A corner kick sailed through the box untouched before coming to Joey Gjertsen as he turned Danleigh Borman inside out before firing on goal. The shot was deflected by defender Andy Iro and then off Wondolowski but Kocic was able to get a foot on it to deflect it wide of the goal.
However, around the midway mark of the half that all changed as Toronto suddenly sprung to life and did not display any fatigue of a team that had played two days earlier. In the 32nd minute forward Peri Marosevic was tackled at the edge of the Dallas 18-yard box and the ball squirted loose to a charging Eric Avila. He then took one touch before slotting the ball past Quakes keeper Jon Busch and inside the far post.
The Reds carried the momentum into the second half and nearly increased its lead in the 52nd minute when Ryan Johnson chipped the ball over the defence to Torsten Frings. The German charged in and hit it with his left foot but Busch was very sharp and was able to knock the ball down for the save.
TFC thought it had increased its lead in the 75th minute but the goal was wrongly called back on the offside. Johnson from the middle picked out a charging Plata with a great lead pass. Plata then beat a sliding Busch to the ball before making a slick touch to round the keeper and scoring into the empty net. The players and fans began to celebrate before realizing that the goal did not count. Replays clearly showed that the play was clearly onside and the score should have been 2-0.
The Quakes came close in the 85th minute when Wondolowski pounced on a loose ball inside the box and drilled a short range drive but Kocic was able to knock the ball down with his hands. The ball then bounced to substitute Matt Luzunaris and his header went just wide of the goal.
San Jose finally broke through in the 87th minute when a long throw in was flicked backwards at the edge of the six yard box by Bobby Burling. The ball landed to Wondolowski by the far post and he quickly knocked it in for his ninth goal of the season to tie the game in dramatic fashion. The boisterous crowd at BMO Field fell silent as the Reds collectively hung their heads. It seemed as though substitute defender Eddy Viator left the Quakes striker unmarked leading to the tying goal.
For Johnson, he was disappointed with the offside call on the goal by Plata and that he could not stick one against his old team.
“I think we should have played this game out,” said the TFC forward. “Definitely should have won 1-0 and I think Plata’s goal was onside, but it’s a tough one… I wish the Plata goal was kept on the board that would have been a good one against my old team. It didn’t happen that way and we just got to move on.”
TFC acquired Johnson San Jose on July 14th along with an international roster spot and allocation money with Nana Attakora, Alan Gordon and Jacob Peterson going the other way. Meanwhile, Gordon was out with and injury, Attakora was dressed but did not see any action and Peterson came on as a substitute in the 66th minute.
Added Johnson, “It’s business – it’s good to see those guys, the coaching staff. I still have a good relationship with them. I want to see them succeed and at the same time I want to see my team succeed. Getting a draw is I guess the best of both worlds in a way, but I definitely thought that we should have won.”
TFC will now have a much deserved break in its schedule – a two week break to be exact. The team needs the rest after playing so many games in the past two months and will finally have time to heal their bodies while others will be represent their countries in international friendlies or World Cup qualifying matches. The next match for the Reds will be on September 10 in Columbus against the Crew to decide the Trillium Cup with kickoff at 7:30pm ET at Columbus Crew Stadium.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times