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article imageColorado's narrow-minded approach sinks TFC at BMO Field Special

By Tyrrell Meertins     Apr 13, 2014 in Sports
Toronto FC suffered their second defeat of the season against the Colorado Rapids in a dull encounter at BMO Field. Poor field conditions can be held accountable for the lacklustre showdown, but the match was also dire from a tactical perspective.
Ryan Nelsen was forced to make several changes to his XI as he was without five of his regular starters, including marquee signings Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley.
The main issue the Reds encountered was their lack of quality in the final third. Dwayne De Rosario and Gilberto didn’t offer much of a threat upfront, with the former constantly conceding possession, whereas the latter is slowly adapting to the league.
Meanwhile, Nelsen’s makeshift midfield duo of Jeremy Hall and Kyle Bekker was interesting. While Hall struggled to impact the match higher up the pitch, Bekker showcased his abilities in a deeper role. Bekker proved to be a reliable passer –– switching the route of attack on numerous occasions, which resulted in half-chances –– further ensuring that TFC kept possession.
“Sometimes I felt we got caught a little flat, but for the most part we did well. I think we could have stepped up the field better, but as a whole we did well,” said Bekker in regards to his partnership with Hall.
“I’m comfortable playing anywhere in the midfield, I just want to get on the ball and give balance and keep the team shape, but for now I’m good with this position.”
Frankly, the 23-year-old looked like the only player capable of winning the match. Bekker’s deliveries into the box from wide areas and set-pieces created chances that his teammates failed to convert, and on two separate occasions his free-kicks rattled the post.
The only issue that TFC encountered regarding their midfield was the lack of dynamism. Bradley is renowned for moving higher up the pitch to close down the opposition, and then charging forward into attack, but neither was evident Saturday afternoon. Put simply, TFC missed the presence of arguably Major League Soccer’s best player.
Hall quietly drifted through the match, while Bekker opted to play conservative passes, opposed to surging forward into attack. Still the 23-year-old was arguably TFC’s best performer, and Nelsen fully praised Bekker for his contributions.
“I thought he was brilliant today,” Nelsen said. “I thought Kyle did really well. He did a lot of stuff on the opposite side of the ball, which is something he’s brought into his game and it shows a little maturity in Kyle, which is what we’ve been hoping to see, which has been developing through his hard work.”
On the other hand, Colorado’s approach didn’t necessarily harm TFC. Pablo Mastroeni’s men were assembled to dominate central areas, as they were essentially playing with four ball-playing midfielders. The Rapids overloaded the midfield, but their overall play was too narrow.
With their full-backs reluctant on pushing forward, TFC’s wingers Jackson and Issey Nakajima-Farran were rarely pegged back. Similar to the home side, the Rapids’ productivity in the final third was poor. TFC closed down the away side when they attempted to play from the back, and Hall’s press on Jose Mari prevented the Spaniard from dictating the match from deep positions.
Bekker’s deliveries were pushing TFC towards maximum points, but former Reds striker Edson Buddle’s second half winner –– seconds after Bekker’s free-kick hit the post –– handed Nelsen’s side their first home loss of the season. As TFC failed to clear their lines, Dillon Powers confidently stormed into the box, and his cut-back pass enabled Buddle to coolly slot his shot past Julio Cesar. Prior to the goal, Cesar was a bystander, thus exemplifying the threat Mastroeni’s men provided in attack.
Mastroeni’s men hung on and dealt with the pressure applied by TFC throughout the second half, and while many will feel Nelsen’s side deserved more, the Rapid’s merited a point. The away side’s overall approach was stifled due to the lack of width, but they were ruthless in the final third and pounced on TFC’s mental lapse.
“There were only a few spells of decent soccer being played out there. The rest of it was grit, rolling up your sleeves, second balls and battles,” Mastroeni said.
TFC captain Steven Caldwell agreed with the Rapids coach on the poor surface conditions at BMO Field.
“It was a scrappy game, it wasn’t a game we utterly dominated. Nobody can in those conditions, but we felt we had done enough to win the match, and we weren’t in any trouble defensively so we knew the first goal was going to be all-important,” Caldwell said.
Without key members in the squad, TFC’s back-line and midfield functioned well. The main issue is productivity in the final third: neither side posed a threat in advanced positions, but with Gilberto yet to settle, and De Rosario’s ruthless finishing past him, TFC is in desperate need of an additional goal source.
This was a great test that displayed the quality throughout TFC’s squad, and while the attack looks bleak at the moment, many positives were identified.
I thought we –– considering obviously the absentees –– played really well, the guys that were on the field worked brilliantly, as you can see in the second half they got stronger,” Nelsen offered.
“You know we’re going to get injuries, and you have to put faith in the younger players to win football games. I think we showed here that if we get into situations like this we’re more than capable of winning most games.”
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