Home MLS Toronto FC Missed marking assignment costs TFC two points against San Jose

Missed marking assignment costs TFC two points against San Jose


It was deja vu all over again for Toronto FC. For the second time in less than three days, the Reds were victimized by leaving a man unmarked on a throw-in that led to a goal. Against FC Dallas on Thursday morning, it cost TFC a 1-0 defeat, and on Saturday at BMO Field it was Chris Wondolowski’s late-game equalizer that led to a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Reds went ahead on Eric Avila’s 33rd-minute goal and then held steady despite being outshot by a 14-6 margin by the Earthquakes. In the 87th minute, however, a throw-in from the corner was deflected right to a wide-open Wondolowski on the right side. The San Jose striker barely had to touch the ball for his ninth goal of the season.

The fact that the 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner was left unmarked at such a critical point could only leave the Reds shaking their heads after the match.

“It’s been happening all season. It’s totally unacceptable the way we defend set pieces,” said goalkeeper Milos Kocic. “It’s just not how it’s supposed to be happening. I don’t know what to do. Like I said last time, we should be focused on basics — hold your man, don’t let him jump. I don’t know.”

Late-game breakdowns have plagued the Reds for basically their entire history, but the defensive miscues have piled up in recent weeks. Dwayne De Rosario took advantage of two Toronto errors to score two of his three goals in TFC’s 3-3 draw with D.C. United on Aug. 6, and then on Aug. 21 it was Chicago’s Dan Gargan who was unmarked on a corner kick and scored the second of the Fire’s two tallies in a 2-0 victory over the Reds.

“It’s just so frustrating. In the last few weeks, we’ve given away late, soft goals,” said defender Andy Iro. “We’re throwing games away. Even at the end of such a tough stretch of games that we’ve had, when you go 1-0 up, that’s when your true mettle shows. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but you just close it out… As a team we’re lacking something, that final bite, myself included.”

TFC was playing its second game in less than 60 hours following its CONCACAF Champions League match with Dallas that was abandoned due to a thunderstorm on Wednesday night and rescheduled for Thursday morning. Despite the short turn-around, eight of the men who played the full 90 minutes against the Hoops were in Saturday’s Starting XI.

Fatigue could hardly be blamed for the end result since in the first half, it was San Jose (0-6-6 in their last 12 games) who looked like the overwhelmed side. Toronto dominated the Quakes from roughly the 20th minute to the end of the first half, culminating in Avila’s goal. Striker Peri Marosevic drew three men in the box and when the ball bounced to Avila on the right side, the midfielder had all kinds of space to kick it into the left side of the net.

It was Avila’s second goal of the season and his first in a Reds shirt since being acquired from FC Dallas on August 2.

San Jose applied more pressure in the second half but it seemed as if TFC put the game on ice when Joao Plata apparently scored in the 75th minute. Rather than give Toronto a 2-0 lead, however, Plata was called offside — a judgement that TV replays showed wasn’t the case.

TFC head coach Aron Winter didn’t blame the officiating for his club’s draw, however, instead pointing the finger at the lack of defence on Wondolowski’s goal.

“[The offside call] was a very important decision but still, the fault that we have made with the throw-in is impossible,” Winter said. “I don’t accept those faults.”

Winter has consistently made note of the fact that the Reds are a young, rebuilding team throughout his first season as coach, perhaps as an answer to critics who wonder why TFC still hasn’t sniffed the playoffs in its fifth year. Even Winter, however, admitted to feeling some frustration over how these same issues keep cropping up for his side.

“You can’t, and I will never, accept it. Two games, right behind each other, that you make exactly the [same] mistakes,” Winter said. “Everybody can make mistakes but then you have to learn about it and don’t do it anymore. That’s why I don’t like them and why I’m upset.”

Julian de Guzman said that coaches’ instructions about placement and marking can only go so far, and it is up to the players themselves to absorb these lessons.

“It’s also important for each individual to take a look at themselves and ask ‘how professional am I? Am I ready for this?’ ” de Guzman said. “[Set pieces] are crucial moments in any soccer game that can turn things around and it always goes against us. These are moments that each individual should know what his task is on set plays. That one moment when you’re caught sleeping, that’s when you find the ball in the back of the net.

“It’s a lot of points that have been given away just too easily. Normally you should learn from these mistakes but when they happen over and over again, it’s very frustrating. It’s hard to swallow.”

The draw continues an odd trend in the Toronto/San Jose rivalry; the home team has won just one of eight all-time meetings between the two clubs. San Jose is just one of two MLS sides (Columbus is the other) who has never lost at BMO Field, now with a record of 1-0-3 in four games.

The Reds aren’t in action again until Sept. 10, giving the club an extra week to stew over this latest tough result. WIth the MLS playoffs looking like a near-impossibility at this point, the Reds will be focused on its Champions League dates and, in theory, avoiding any more collapses.

“There’s still a lot of football to be played and we can still do something this season in whatever competition,” Iro said. “We had better improve and do it quickly.”

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One Comment

  1. James

    August 28, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Worst defense in the MLS. They couldn’t make the bench in Atlanta. They have so many holes, so many giveaways. Torsten must be wondering what the hell he got himself into.

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