Home MLS Toronto FC Nothing but negatives out of TFC’s humbling loss to Sporting KC

Nothing but negatives out of TFC’s humbling loss to Sporting KC


A few years ago, when my old club, AC Misfits, was putt-putting along in the middle division of Edmonton men’s league, Hans, our German import, critiqued our performance after a particularly miserable effort.

It went like this: You could put the entire team in a sack, then have someone punch it. No matter which player took the punch, “you’d be right.”

Hans told us this was a Beckenbauer-ism. I tried finding that quote tonight, no luck. But, no matter if it was Hans or Beckenbauer who authored the quote, it would be an apt description of Toronto FC on Saturday night.

There were so many listless performances out there. Sure, trying to get anything out of a road game in Kansas City is difficult, but TFC made it oh so easy for their hosts with a midfield that refused to challenge for the ball and a back four that had no shape and kept backing in, rather than trying to shut down shooting lanes or cutting off passes.

The result? A 3-0 loss which, really, could have been worse. A lot worse.

TFC is now 16 points out of the fifth and final playoff spot in the East. And, there are three other teams between the Reds and the fifth-place Dynamo. Sure, TFC coach Ryan Nelsen can talk about how this team could still make the playoffs — but unless TFC is planning to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars saved by shuffling off defender Darren O’Dea on Superman, we all pretty much see through those statements.

In the very first minute, we all got a sign of what was to come. The defenders all crowded into the middle of the box to deal with a Graham Zusi free kick. The ball came all the way over to the left side, where Designated Player Claudio Bieler was left unmarked. Luckily for TFC, he screwed his shot wide.

It was a troubling start for the back four — which featured Richard Eckersley, playing for the first time since April, at left back. And things didn’t get any better. Eckersley was slow and yielded too much space on his wing. Centre back Steven Caldwell was regularly caugh out of position. Gale Agbossoumonde’s marking wasn’t up to par. And Ryan Richter was continually shredded on the right side. Maybe the most hilarious moment came when the game was still scoreless; Richter was embarrassed by Soony Saad, as the SKC attacker simply dove past Richter — twice — to get to the ball first. Saad dove to win the ball, then got up, dove past Richter again so he could win possession once and for all.

But, despite how poor TFC played as a team, they can look back to an early double-save by SKC keeper Jimmy Nielsen. After a nice run by Robert Earnshaw, Bobby Convey did a nice job to cut across the top of the box and find Jeremy Brockie wide open on the right. Nielsen stopped Brockie’s first attempt, and then stopped the second shot with his legs.

That was TFC’s last meaningful chance.

SKC, though was just getting started. Midway through the first half, the hosts got the lead. Seth Sinovic had the ball down the left side, and TFC midfielder Darel Russell decided not to challenge his opponent. Instead, the Red backed off, which gave Sinovic a clear passing lane to the top of the box.

Soony Saad

Saad got the pass, and no Red defender stepped up to challenge at this juncture. After watching his defenders do a whole lot of backing off, keeper Joe Bendik was picking the ball out of his net.

Bendik was then called in to keep the game manageable before the halftime whistle. He made a diving stop on Benny Feilhaber, who was quickly in alone after a Matias Laba turnover. Now, former Red Terry Dunfield, a Canadian, used to take criticism for making a lot of safe passes in central midfield but not moving the ball forward. Laba, a higher-priced Argentine, does a lot of the same thing. He looks good in the middle of the park, dinking little passes around. But he doesn’t win the midfield 50-50 battles, TFC is often overrun in that position. Laba hasn’t showed much going forward. But Laba generally gets hailed as a real gem. Funny how nationality and salary can affect the perception of a player at a position.

A holding midfielder has got to win the ball. He has to disrupt the flow of the opposition. Laba’s aggression still needs work. He’s young. But he’s nowhere close to being an elite MLS player yet.

Caldwell was caught early in the second half. On a route one goal kick from Nielsen, the Scottish centre back came way up the field to challenge SKS’s Kei Kamara. The striker outleaped Caldwell and nodded the ball on for Bieler, who was gone and behind the TFC backline. Again, Bendik kept it respectable with a diving stop.

But, finally, TFC was knocked out for the count. Zusi’s shot from the top of the area was parried by Bendik, but the rebound was left for both Saad or Bieler. Saad slammed it home as Bieler didn’t go for the ball — knowing he was likely in an offside position. SKC showed us teamwork and instincts for the game; from TFC we saw only confusion.

Maybe the team was rocked by the news of O’Dea’s departure, made public just an hour before the game. Maybe there’s some gnashing of teeth over the decision made earlier this week to trade away midfielder Luis Silva. But this Reds’ team did not compete Saturday. It was all the more evident when a frustrated Reggie Lambe, who came on as a sub, saw red for diving into Saad after the ball was long gone.

And it was evident on SKC’s third goal, a pretty passing sequence which saw the TFC defenders pose as stationary pylons. Eventually, Saad slipped the ball to Bieler, who tapped it into the open goal.

Later in the match, SKC thought it had a fourth, as Aurelien Collin headed home after a mad scramble in the TFC penalty area. But the linesman’s flag was up.

The questions will be on who the club will bring in during the July window. Once the O’Dea transfer is done, more cash — and an international roster spot — will be available. But this team needs so much help, and is so far out of the playoff chase, that money will be the only enticement for a player to come to Canada’s largest city for the second half of the MLS season. There will be no glory here.

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  1. Martin

    July 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    Your German teammate was right. The German version of the quote can be found on an archived page of German news portal Spiegel.de. After Germany defeated the United States 1:0 in what Beckenbauer deemed a bad game for the German national team at the 2002 World Cup, he said (my translation): “If you put everyone except [goalie] Kahn into a sack and start beating it, it will always hit the right one.” Link: http://www.spiegel.de/sport/fussball/zitat-des-tages-wankelmuetiger-kaiser-a-202597.html

  2. No

    July 14, 2013 at 11:42 am

    More drivel.

  3. footy

    July 14, 2013 at 9:53 am

    One step forward, two steps back, could also have served as a headline. This looked horrible. I really think the sudden departures of O’Dea and Silva played a role in this game, just like the absence of Osorio and Henry (and even Morgan in this game). But you’re right, all of them sucked, but Joe Bendik.

    I don’t agree with your assessment of Laba, his touches show more quality than Dunfield has in his dreams. Which is not to say that Laba played good, cause he didn’t. But I think he can do better (and has done better in the past). His play will improve anyway when Osorio returns from the Gold Cup.

    But Eckersly on the left? Too bad Morgan wasn’t available for this one, could have been very useful yesterday. And how many chances does Ryan Richter get? I’m sorry but his play has been bad from the start, he’s continuing to loose points for his team.

    Just to balance your Beckenbauerism I’ll provide you with a Cruyfism:

    If you don’t have the ball, you can’t score.

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