Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Chivas USA continued the Reds’ winless start to the Major League Soccer season. TFC has had three four-game losing streaks (two in 2007, one last season) but this marked the first time in club history that it had taken five defeats on the trot in league play.
While the Reds looked listless in the first half, it’s hard to argue that TFC didn’t deserve at least one point from this game given that the Reds had four outstanding chances in the final 20 minutes. None of those four chances, however, found the back of the net, leaving the team cursing its misfortune.
“Bad luck. It’s the only thing I can explain,” said TFC head coach Aron Winter. “When you lose you can never say that you played well but you have to be always positive since I saw a lot of good things and that’s important. If you don’t create chances or don’t play well then you’re far away from it, but in this situation what can you do better at that moment? I think it’s only bad luck. it’s simple.”
Danny Koevermans started the run of buzzard’s luck in the 70th minute when he took a perfect cross in front of the net from Joao Plata and redirected the ball with a back-heel. The shot, however, went right into Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, causing Koevermans to exasperatedly kick the post.
Reds midfielder Ryan Johnson had two equally strong opportunities later in the second half. In the 80th minute, Johnson found room for a shot from the left side that Kennedy got a hand on but the ball was still heading towards the open goal. Kennedy’s deflection did manage, however, to knock the ball just off-target enough that Goats defender Heath Pearce was able to slide back and clear the ball away.
Four minutes later, Eric Avila sent a tremendous pass into the box that found Johnson on the left side for a header, but this attempt went just inches wide of the right post.
“This is probably the most unlucky I’ve been in my entire career. It’s mind-boggling sometimes, I can’t believe what happened today,” Johnson said. “I beat the keeper and the guy ran back on the line and cleared it off. He didn’t even see the ball, so that’s just unlucky. The other header was just a little bit wide.”
As close as these three opportunities were, Koevermans had the best chance of all in the 89th minute. He and Plata were on a two-on-one break and Plata’s pass gave Koevermans a clear path in front of Kennedy. The Dutch striker shot, but Kennedy held his ground and the ball bounced clear.
Now with one goal on 12 shots during these first five league games, Koevermans said his cold streak was the inverse of his success in 2011 when he scored eight times in his first nine league games with the Reds.
“Last season a couple of those goals went in,” Koevermans said. “I told you last season when everyone was ‘oh, six in seven, eight in nine’ and I said wait. Maybe it’ll come a time when it’s one in seven [games in all competitions]…..Last season everything I touched was gold and now nothing.”
TFC outshot Chivas by a 13-9 margin in the game, including a 10-2 advantage in the second half when the Reds may have been aided by the wind at their backs. To Chivas USA’s credit, it played the classic away-game strategy of tight man-to-man defence for the first hour or so of the match and emerged with its third road win in as many attempts this season.
The lone goal of the contest came in the 31st minute. Goats striker Miller Bolanos’s corner attempt went into the box and met the head of Oswaldo Minda, who put the ball into the net for the winner. It was the first MLS goal for Minda, an Ecuadorean international who signed with Chivas in December.
It was yet another concession on a set piece for Toronto this season, which defender Adrian Cann attributed to “a lack of concentration” on such plays.
“Everyone knows who they have to mark up, who’s covering who,” Cann said. “It’s just a matter of seeing where the ball is and where the guy is so you can stay on top of him. Everyone makes mistakes but at the end of the day mistakes hurt us.”
Cann was playing in his first game since May 22, 2011 after missing nearly a year of action due to a torn ACL. The Thornhill, Ont. acquitted himself well in his return and, given how the Reds have struggled on the back line this year, Cann’s return could hardly have come at a better time.
TFC could get an even bigger return next week as captain Torsten Frings recently said he could be fit for next Saturday’s match against Chicago. Frings suffered a hamstring injury in the season opener against Seattle and it is no coincidence that Toronto’s losing streak has coincided with Frings’ absence. The German international dressed against Chivas but Winter said Frings wasn’t yet able to play and was merely on the bench for “psychological” purposes.
Still, even with Frings on the pitch, his presence is unlikely to help TFC solve its current goal-scoring drought. The Reds have just two goals during their five-game slide and have been shut out in all three home matches at BMO Field. The announced crowd of 18.476 booed the club at the final whistle, a response that Winter said was expected.
“It’s normal if you’ve played five games with zero points. It’s a normal reaction for the fans,” Winter said. “I hope that they are still faithful.”
Toronto FC is just the fourth team in MLS history to lose its first five games of a season, and the overall league record of an 0-7 start (held by the 1999 Kansas City Wizards) is now a distinct possibility. Winter said he is remaining “positive” about his team but admitted that this was the toughest point of his brief coaching career. As for Johnson, he said he may deal with the frustration simply by avoiding it.
“It’s one of those things where you have to maybe take yourself away from the game a little bit,” Johnson said. “Don’t watch media, don’t read anything, just stay to yourself and hang out with your family….until you get back into training and work on what you’ve been doing well. Next game, [you] hope that things go your way.”
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