Home MLS Toronto FC TFC apologetic after humiliating loss to the Union

TFC apologetic after humiliating loss to the Union

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Toronto FC’s busiest stretch of the season came is finally over, but if the Reds had a choice, they’d want to take the pitch again tomorrow to get the bad taste of Saturday’s result out of their mouths. TFC allowed a franchise-worst six goals in a 6-2 loss to the Philadelphia Union and, incredibly, the scoreline may have flattered the Reds given all their defensive breakdowns.

“It was humiliating,” said Toronto head coach Aron Winter. “It was a bad, bad performance from us. It starts in the back end. If you look at the six goals, at least five were given away on easy things.”

Saturday’s game was the last in a stretch of 10 games in 36 days for TFC. (That number is really 11 games, counting the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final with Vancouver that was abandoned on Wednesday due to lightning.) The Reds amassed a 3-3-4 record in that stretch, but just one of those wins came in league play.

Fixture congestion is no excuse for a 6-2 loss, however, as Winter pointed to the fact that the Reds earned a scoreless draw on the road in Colorado last weekend and were the better team against the Whitecaps on Wednesday.

“I don’t understand how it is possible. If you’re watching the team, the balance is not still there,” Winter said. “It is impossible that one week you’re playing well and a week later you don’t get a performance.”

TFC’s problems on Saturday began just three minutes into the match. Right back Dan Gargan overran his man while trying to play a cross, leaving Philly midfielder Gabriel Farfan wide open for the conversion.

Eight minutes later, a collision between Julian de Guzman and Kyle Nakazawa bumped the ball to an unmarked Justin Mapp, who fired from 25 yards out and found the back of the net.

It was yet another ugly early start for TFC, who have now allowed a league-worst seven goals in the opening 15 minutes of matches. The Reds were looked terrible in the early going, missing easy passes or, when the passes did connect, the intended target bounced the ball off his feet or turned it over.

“They got more opportunities than that you would like,” said Toronto defender Richard Eckersley. “It was one of those games where the passes and clearances were going astray and nothing was bouncing for us, in the first half especially.”

To TFC’s credit, the club tried to fight back in the aftermath of Mapp’s goal and generated some chances of its own against Philadelphia goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. But this hard work was undermined just before the halftime break, as the Union marched down the field and connected a four-point pass play that concluded with Nakazawa scoring his first professional goal.

The 20, 122 supporters at BMO Field rained boos down on the home side as it went into the locker room, and in the opinion of goalkeeper Stefan Frei, this abuse was deserved.

“Apologies to our fans. We don’t deserve their support when we play like this,” Frei said. “You can put up someone who has never played soccer and doesn’t know about tactics and they’ll play better than we did today. As long as you show heart, fight, a little bit of pride….you can’t get scored on six times at home.”

TFC had never before allowed six goals in a game, with their heaviest loss coming in a season-ending 5-0 loss to the Red Bulls on October 24, 2009. That match at least took place in New York, but on Saturday, TFC was at home and were facing a Union side whose top scorer (Carlos Ruiz) wasn’t even in the Starting XI.

De Guzman and Dan Gargan were substituted out at the half in favour of Javier Martina and Danleigh Borman, and this change seemed to spark the Reds. TFC fought back and cut the score to 3-2 after 59 minutes thanks to a brace from Maicon Santos. Santos scored the first by taking a long pass from Borman and catching Mondragon straying outside the box, and Santos converted his second off a Borman corner kick.

In order to press the attack, Toronto basically abandoned defending and focused on one-on-one battles, with the formation looking more like an 2-8 than a 4-3-3. While this led to some wild end-to-end football, it eventually caught up to the Reds in the 61st minute when Mapp found some space outside the box and fired a rocket of a shot past Frei.

It was Mapp’s first brace of his nine-year MLS career and the Union’s only goal of the day that didn’t come as a result of a TFC mistake. Mapp’s goal seemed to completely deflate the Reds, and Union forward Danny Mwanga was the beneficiary of this sloppiness. First, Mwanga was unmarked on a corner, leading to a goal in the 71st minute. Then, in the 89th, Mwanga added one more for good measure when a sliding Dicoy Williams failed to intercept a pass.


It was a rare game without stoppage time, as the referees clearly decided to cut the Reds a break.

While there were no heroes for TFC on this day, the obvious culprit was the back line of Eckersley, Williams, Ty Harden and Gargan. Notably absent was Adrian Cann, who’d been in the Starting XI for all 12 of Toronto’s previous league games this year. Cann’s play has been a bit spotty at times, including a giveaway that led to Eric Hassli’s goal on Wednesday in the abandoned Voyageurs Cup final.

“Adrian has played the most of the games and the last time he was a little bit tired and was making mistakes,” Winter said. “Ty was making a very good impression in training.”

Harden got the starting nod over Borman (who has been absent dealing with a personal issue) and Nana Attakora, who has played in just five games this season due to injuries and the fact that he seems to be deep in Winter’s doghouse.

In the wake of this match, however, Attakora could be in line for more playing time just because the Reds need to find some type of stability in the back. It seems clear that the back line will be one of TFC’s priorities when the transfer window opens in June, and Winter hinted that wholesale changes would be coming to the roster.

“Even when you’re rebuilding, I want guys who want to win,” Winter said. “[We need] somebody who can make goals, a leader. Somebody who can lead the team in the back or in the midfield.”

Winter criticized the majority of his team, including designated player de Guzman, who has now been substituted off in each of the last two games. Winter said he is “not satisfied” with de Guzman’s recent form, and the substitutions were not due to any desire to keep de Guzman fresh as he continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.

The Reds will get a chance to see what their squad looks like without de Guzman as he will miss at least the next three league matches on international duty for Canada during the CONCACAF Gold Cup. De Guzman and Williams (Jamaica) will be away at the Gold Cup while striker Joao Plata will likely miss next week’s game against Sporting Kansas City due to his being capped for Ecuador for a friendly against Canada at BMO Field on June 1. Plata is also slated to be with Ecuador when it faces Greece June 7.

That home date with SKC looms large for the Reds. The missing players will give Winter another chance to shake up his Starting XI and perhaps give a hint as to who won’t be in a TFC jersey when the transfer window closes. More importantly, the players see the game as a much-needed opportunity to rebound from this devastating loss.

“It’s an embarrassing game for us,” Frei said. “It’s important to see how we bounce back from it, both myself personally and as a team. This is a real show of character to see how we can come back from this and learn from this. You don’t want to dwell on it, obviously, but you have to learn from mistakes.

“This is the most bitter loss of my career, hands down.”

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