Home MLS Toronto FC Passive, passionless TFC allows Galaxy to run rampant

Passive, passionless TFC allows Galaxy to run rampant

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How obvious was the gap in talent — and effort — between the Los Angeles Galaxy and MLS doormat Toronto FC on Saturday night?

It’s not often I would quote my mother as a source for a soccer piece — in fact, this would be the first (and only) occasion. But she’s visiting the family and watched the match with me, not knowing much about either team. “The team in red is just standing there,” she said. “The team in white, it’s like cat-and-mouse. The red team doesn’t touch the ball.”

The lack of commitment from TFC was so obvious, that mom was able to break down the game with little problem.

Make no mistake, the 4-2 scoreline was not indicative of the run of play; the host Galaxy was worth a margin of four or five, not one. The attempts on goal? L.A. 27, Toronto 5. The Galaxy had 63 per cent of the possession.

The Galaxy clinched a playoff spot with the win; the Reds are playing out the string on what will be another playoff-less season. No, the Reds didn’t have the likes of striker Eric Hassli or midfielder Torsten Frings at their disposal; but, the way that the Reds surrendered the goals was telling.

Professional players are expected to give their all for the jersey. And, when there is nothing left to play for in terms of trophies or playoff spots, they play for pride.

The way that the Reds simply allowed the Galaxy to run all over them was a sign of a club that has some deep-rooted problems. It’s one thing if the likes of Robbie Keane or Landon Donovan beat the Reds in honest battles. But the Reds didn’t tackle, refused to get stuck in and simply allowed L.A. to take chance after chance after chance. The Reds didn’t challenge the Galaxy to beat them fair and square — no, they rolled over and played dead.

Quite deservedly, the Galaxy showed TFC the respect a Premiership team will show to a Blue Square Premier team in an FA Cup tie. The Galaxy opened the match coming at the Reds in waves, going for the throat, not allowing a fragile team playing out the string any sort of confidence. It was simply hard to fathom that, this past spring, that the Reds ousted the Galaxy from the CONCACAF Champions League.

The Reds were left to simply make panic clearances, which the Galaxy would retrieve, then attack again.

But, it didn’t take long for the home side to grab the lead. After Christian Wilhelmsson, the Galaxy’s new Swedish addition, was fouled just outside the box by Luis Silva, Juninho lined up the free kick. And then TFC keeper Freddy Hall made some very odd decisions when forming the defensive wall ahead of him. Once the wall was set, Hall decided to set up right behind it, dead centre. Usually, a keeper will pick a side — a wall takes away one part of the shooting angle, the keeper guards the other portion of the goal. But, by standing right behind the wall, Hall left the right side of the goal wide open, and Juninho obliged with what really was about as easy a free-kick goal as anyone could score.

Juninho then force Hall to tip a shot off the bar — a shot which Juninho was left wide open to take, with no midfielder bothering to close him down. Then Wilhelmsson, left wide open in the box off a corner, chipped Hall but his attempt drifted just above the bar.

But these close calls didn’t convince the Reds that they should try to close down the Galaxy’s offensive players. Juninho then got another chance to shoot from outside the box. He had time to settle and measure his shot, as Terry Dunfield thought about closing down his opponent, hesitate and yielded the space instead. Hall was soon picking the ball out of his net.

The Galaxy’s third goal saw TFC central defender (OK, right back playing in the middle) Richard Eckersley corkscrewed into the ground by two players. Eckersley went off at halftime due to injury — it could have been from the dizziness he suffered on this play. A pass from Landon Donovan found Mike Magee in the box; Magee turned Eckersley inside out, then dropped the ball for Keane. Eckersley, trying to recover from being beaten by Magee, was turned around by Keane, who then chipped the ball into the net.

Dunfield headed a goal home after a deft flick from Luis Silva to make it 3-1 at half; and, late in the game, after the Galaxy had gone into cruise control, Silva’s attempt on goal caromed off Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez and looped into the goal, improbably giving the Reds just a one-goal deficit to deal with.

But, just after Keane missed a open header when he had Hall at his mercy, he made it 4-2 late in the match. He simply stepped back and forth with the ball at his feet, inviting TFC defender Ashtone Morgan to lunge at the ball rather than hold his position. Morgan obliged, Keane shuffled the ball past the defender and hammered the ball into the roof of the goal.

Mistakes of aggression are one thing. But when a team is passive, when it doesn’t offer any resistance, it suggests that the motivation isn’t there. Playoff team or not, professional players have to conduct themselves accordingly; and that means putting in an honest 90 minutes of work when the coach asks.

 

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