Home MLS Toronto FC TFC gives up another late goal: In reality, Reds lucky to leave Philly with a point

TFC gives up another late goal: In reality, Reds lucky to leave Philly with a point

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It was ugly. It was dirty. It wasn’t a great advertisement for MLS.

And Toronto FC supporters will likely moan “same old, same old” when it comes to Saturday’s 1-1 draw on the road. Another day of dropped points, as Jack McInerney’s goal three minutes into injury time allowed the Philadelphia Union to get a 1-1 draw from its home date with the Reds.

Yes, the goal wasn’t a vintage moment for the Reds. It came just six minutes after Ashtone Morgan got sent off, after he picked up a second yellow card for elbowing the Union’s Sheanon Williams in the back of the head. Morgan’s yellows were two of 10 handed out on the day to both sides. (More on that later)

And it came because TFC, despite getting winning the ball for the first and second time after a long throw into the box by Williams, couldn’t clear the danger. The ball came across the box to McInerney, who slammed the ball into an open net. All day long, the Union used long throws from Williams as a major offensive weapon. And, right before the game was done, that tactic finally undid the TFC defence.

But, if you’re lamenting lost points, you need to take a step back and look at the game as whole. If not for TFC keeper Joe Bendik, who put in a performance that’s worthy of Player of the Week votes, the Union would have won this match by three or four goals.

In fact, Bendik preserved the tie, as he robbed Antoine Hoppenot of a goal right after McInerney got the equalizer. Hoppenot got behind the defence and looked to be strolling in to stroke home the winner. But Bendik got low to stop the chance, and added to his own personal highlight reel.

At this pace, you wonder if Stefan Frei will see the field for TFC anytime in the near future.

The shorthanded Toronto FC side got a 71st-minute suckerpunch of a goal from Robert Earnshaw to give it an unlikely lead.

The goal came out of nowhere. Union keeper Zac MacMath kicked the ball to midfield, where it was won in the air by TFC left back Morgan. He showed some skill in taking the ball off the hop and lobbing it down the pitch where only a streaking Earnshaw could get to it. Earnshaw made a smart first touch, drew MacMath off his line, then chipped it over the keeper.

Morgan won’t see a lot of headlines for a nice piece of skill to get the ball up the pitch, but his creation of the chance was as important as the finish. And Morgan, only in the lineup because Richard Eckersley was unavailable because of injury, endured a pretty tough afternoon, as he and Union winger Danny Cruz got involved in a nasty, physical series of one-on-one battles before the Philly player was subbed off near the one-hour mark. ?
And, later, Morgan got sent off.

The start of the game saw Reds coach Ryan Nelsen forced to make a change almost right off the bat. TFC right back Darrel Russell lasted just six minutes after a non-contact injury forced a change, and Ryan Richter, who played in the USL last season, got to play against the MLS team that drafted him.

For 27 minutes, TFC and the Union engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse that provided little in terms of excitement.

The Union tried to get the ball down the wings, and tried to test TFC with either crosses or long throws. In fact, it looks like the Union have more set plays off throw-ins in its repertoire than everyone else in MLS combined.

Meanwhile, TFC tried to put pressure on the Union up the field. But once the Reds got the turnovers, they struggled to find the pass that would allow them to press their advantages. Often, it was a case of the Union giving the ball away, but then gettng it right back.

Finally, in the 27th, the Union were able to carve out fhe first couple of meaningful chances of the game. At the top of the area, veteran striker Conor Casey was able to shift the ball between his feet. The result, he was able to turn inside of Richter and lash a shot at goal. Bendik got low to stop it, and was able to turn and get to the opposite post in time to stop Cruz on the rebound. Cruz decided to take a touch and settle the ball rather than shoot as soon as he got that rebound — and that split-second decision cost him a better goal-scoring opportunity.

TFC central defender Darren O’Dea, who loomed large in clearing some of the Union’s set-piece deep throw-ins earlier in the half, actually had TFC’s best chance to score in the half, heading a Luis Silva cross just wide.

But don’t be fooled by the descriptions of those scoring chances. The truth is that the first half represented MLS at its worst — and looked a lot like those MLS matches from the late ‘90s that made it the subject of scorn for so many of the so-called Eurosnobs. There was no creativity in attack from either side, and the most memorable incidents weren’t scoring chances or displays of skill. Collisions were the talking points.

Did Cruz intentionally jump into Morgan in the first hald, as the TFC defender was defenceless as he waited to take a long ball off his head? And, would TFC’s Silva be OK after being run over — inadvertently, to be fair — by Sheanon Williams?

After Bendik was forced into two very good saves early in the second half, the game went right back into the Fight Club mode. Morgan got his revenge with a late challenge on Cruz and, at the 60-minute mark, the teams squared off in the middle of the park for a good old-fashioned shoving match.

The yellows kept coming, and the late shots and questionable tackles didn’t stop.

After the Reds took the lead, there were more spills and a few thrills. TFC’s Hogan Ephraim got a yellow for getting into a shoving match with the Union’s Williams as the Philadelphia man tried to get set to make a throw in. And you have to wonder if Morgan’s second yellow was an inadvertent elbow, or a case of a frustrated player looking to even a score.

Bendik looked to have twice saved the game with sensational late stops. Kleberson’s attempt was deflected on the way towards goal, forcing Bendik into a great diving stop.

And Conor Casey, who rose in importance as the game went on, had his point-blank chance blocked by the feet of the keeper. (Earlier in the half, Bendik had stopped Casey from eight yards away.)

The Union had the ball in the back of the net in the 89th minute. McInerney bundled it in, out from under the hands of Bendik. But the goal was correctly waved off. Even if a keeper doesn’t have full control of a ball, a player cannot kick the ball from under his hands.

After a first half that offered nothing more than embarrassment for those of us who defend the quality of MLS when it’s derided by the snobs, the second half offered some entertainment value. TFC fans shouldn’t feel the equalizer was harsh. In a game where Bendik’s name was the most prominent of all the Reds players, this was a match that TFC had no business ever even having a lead to protect in the first place.

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