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article imageSporting KC's clinical finishing sinks Toronto FC at BMO Field

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jul 27, 2014 in Sports
In a high-octane match between two Eastern Conference contenders, 10-man Sporting Kansas City came from behind to defeat Toronto FC.
While neither side necessarily controlled the midfield, TFC’s dominance down the right flank was the key theme of the match. Without key striker Jermain Defoe, Dominic Oduro was TFC’s star man, completing four key passes and five successful dribbles. Sporting KC left-back Seth Sinovic and centre-back Matt Besler couldn’t cope with Oduro’s pace, and they lacked protection as majority of TFC’s attacks were created on the break.
Although Oduro delivered dangerous balls into the six-yard box that his teammates failed to convert, he was equally involved in the home side’s best chances in the first half. The TFC winger’s first touch evaded Besler, before providing a sensational pass behind the Sporting KC defence to Jackson, who rounded goalkeeper Andy Greunenbaum and tapped the ball into an open net.
Subsequently, the 28-year-old created two great opportunities for the Reds to increase their lead as Nick Hagglund directed his cross off the post, while the Ghanaian blitzed by Sinovic and also fired a shot off the post. Likewise, the other component to TFC's offensive threat was Gilberto and Luke Moore’s exceptional hold up play, and their ability to consistently link with the midfield in transition.
However, while the away side’s attack lacked cohesion in the opening half, Benny Felihaber’s direct running from midfield provided TFC with a few issues. Minutes into the second half, the midfielder’s individual slalom into the box led to Graham Zusi curling a loose ball — that the TFC back-line failed to clear on numerous occasions — past Joe Bendik. The dynamic midfielder forced Bendik into making two saves shortly afterwards, with the best chance created through Juliao’s cross to C.J. Sapong who chested the ball to Felihaber, but the TFC keeper pushed his shot away for a corner.
Still, TFC heavily relied on Oduro’s pace on the right flank, as he continued to torment Sinovic — eventually leading to his injury — and substitute Kevin Ellis, and his direct running led to bookings for Juliao and Besler. Jackson, though, received several chances to win the match for the Reds but his finishing was shockingly poor. The TFC winger fired two clear-cut chances directly at Greunenbaum, and then steered Oduro’s delivery over the net from six-yards out.
The match followed the same pattern in the second half — neither midfield was capable of imposing their authority in central areas, while Oduro dominated the right flank. Oddly, Besler’s sending off — receiving his second yellow following a foul on Oduro — tilted the match in the away side’s favour. Peter Vermes introduced former TFC player Jacob Peterson, and within three minutes of his introduction he coolly slotted the ball past Bendik, following impressive hold up play from Dom Dwyer.
Ryan Nelsen reacted swiftly, calling upon Jonathan Osorio and Dwayne De Rosario, while transitioning into a 3-4-3. TFC created three chances in the final seven minutes that epitomized their main strengths over 90 minutes. First, Oduro drove down the right flank and cut the ball back to De Rosario, but he fired a tame effort directly at Greunenbaum. Then Henry’s long diagonal was chested down by Moore to Bradley, but he hit the ball into the ground and it bounced wide of the net. Lastly, Jackson galloped forward on the left flank, skipping Juliao and Felihaber before delivering a great cross to the far post that evaded Oduro.
It's the mentality,” Vermes said.
“You understand what you have to do. There's things that you work on in training. Not only do the guys understand it tactically, but they also have the right mentality. They know how to fight and grind out the points at the end, but more importantly to pick and choose their opportunities and their chances.”
Squandered opportunities and poor defending will rightly dominate headlines, as TFC’S performance illustrated the gap between playoff and MLS Cup contenders as Sporting KC’s resilience prevailed. Nonetheless, while TFC’s display wasn’t poor, losing a home game against a side that was reduced to 10-men is unacceptable.
“We had all the obvious chances to win the game and we didn’t do it,” Nelsen stated.
“We haven’t got our balance right yet in that midfield. On those two goals, we were spectators in a time when we had to be urgent, have intensity and focus. We just hoped somebody would do their job. That was unfortunate.”
Nelsen’s fixation on the 4-4-2, along with his reluctance to make proactive changes led to his downfall. Equally, Daniel Lovitz’s pace, or the inclusion of an additional midfielder to control the tempo of the match during the final 20 minutes was a logical alternative, but the TFC manager waited until the away side took the lead to alter his side’s approach.
TFC have built a squad capable of challenging for the MLS Cup, but they will need to improve their production in front of goal, and Nelsen must offer a hint of flexibility and pragmatism in the near future.
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