Home MLS Toronto FC TFC takes advantage of the worst team in MLS

TFC takes advantage of the worst team in MLS


As we have so often seen this year, Toronto FC was involved in a game filled with poor finishing, defensive miscommunications and some truly abysmal defending of set pieces.

But, for a change, it wasn’t TFC making the fatal errors.

D.C. United, now winless in 13, made a solid advertisement on why it is the worst team in MLS, losing at home 2-1 to TFC after scoring the first goal of the game.

It was a battle of the teams with the worst two records in MLS. A battle between the team that Toronto FC General Manager and president Kevin Payne left to become the man at the head of the Reds’ front office. And it was a chance for TFC coach Ryan Nelsen to revisit the ground where he enjoyed so much success.

And, for the first 45 minutes, fans were treated to the classic sporting paradox; a game that coaches would hate, but the people in the seats love. The midfield was open, despite the shorter-than-norm field that D.C. United has at RFK Stadium. There were chances on both ends. There were breakdowns. And that led to a half filled with talking points.

Both TFC and DCU had early chances to open the scoring; TFC defender Gale Agbossoumonde reacted well to a low cross from DCU’s Nick DeLeon, nicking the ball into touch a split second before the designated TFC killer, Dwayne De Rosario, could tuck it in to what would have been an open goal.

TFC’s Robert Earnshaw had a great chance to open the scoring in the 13th minute. Jonathan Osorio made a clever run deep down the left side, then squared the ball for Earnshaw in front of goal. But the Welsh veteran skied the attempt over the goal, keeping his goalless streak that dates back to April alive.

D.C. United would break through before the game was 20 minutes old. DeLeon blazed up the middle of the park, leading a counterattack. Right back Ryan Richter came into the middle, in hot pursuit of DeLeon. But even though DeLeon had the ball at his feet, he was able to pull away from Richter. As the DCU midfielder got near the box, Agbossoumonde made the decision to try and cut him off. Their shoulders met, DeLeon went down, and DCU got a penalty kick.

De Rosario got the goal, a clinical low burner that TFC keeper Joe Bendik couldn’t get to even though he guessed correctly and dove to his right.

But it was after the goal that DCU began showing off why this team has just six points — and we’re in June. The home team had two golden opportunities to deliver killing blows to the Reds while they were reeling.

Just minutes after the goal, De Rosario and fellow forward Lionard Pajoy played a deft give-and-go in the box that caught two Reds — Jeremy Hall and Agbossoumonde — flat-footed. Bendik, reading that Pajoy was going to be in the clear, dashed out of goal, not to get to the ball, but to throw off the shooter. Pajoy had the chance to round Bendik, but his first touch was very heavy and he put himself past the end line. Bendik did well to throw off Pajoy, but an MLS-calibre striker has to do better.

The question is: How many players on DCU are really MLS-calibre?

Pajoy then had another golden chance. Richter — who had a first half to forget — coughed the ball up right in front of his own penalty area. Pajoy took the gift, made a step to his right to clear some space, and then had a clear look at goal. He scuffed a weak shot wide of the far post.

Two golden chances — and in neither case did the ball even make it on target.

And that allowed TFC time to find itself. In the 30th minute, centre back Steven Caldwell launched a long hopeful ball into the DCU area on a free-kick opportunity. DCU defender Brandon McDonald was in a one-on-one battle with the lone man TFC had forward, Robert Earnshaw. Even though McDonald was ball side, Earnshaw was able to leap over the defender (he may have had a bit of a shove, too, but not enough to earn a whistle) and head the ball off the post and into the goal.

Now, there was so much wrong with this on the DC side, it’s hard to fathom it all. Earnshaw was the only striker of any threat, how did he end up being in a one-vs-one situation? Why did McDonald get no help? Where was keeper Bill Hamid in all of this. The free kick was skied, it didn’t connect with Earnshaw that far from goal, why wouldn’t Hamid come off his line and claim the ball, or at least get a punch in?

It got worse for D.C. United. On another set piece before half, a nicely placed free kick from Luis Silva connected with the head of DCU defender Daniel Woolard, who beat his own keeper. The own goal gave the Reds a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

And it gave TFC one of the oddest stat lines at the end of the game. Two goals scored, but only one shot on goal.

TFC didn’t trouble the DCU goal in the second half. But unlike so many previous games, the Reds didn’t panic late. The second half saw Bendik to make two good — but not ridiculous — saves. A diving stop on DeLeon began the second half, and he was later able to get a hand to a chance from De Rosario. Considering DeRo’s past multi-goal performances against his former club, a one-goal night (a penalty, to boot) has to be considered a win for the TFC backline.

TFC now has its second win out of 14 games played this season. As for DCU, we can wonder — if this team played in NASL, where would it finish?

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One Comment

  1. [email protected]

    June 16, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Steven, I don’t think you’re being fair here. Every time a goal is scored, you could argue there was a defensive error to blame. But TFC played with confidence, the passes were there and most importantly: they were playing FORWARD. Laba gives the midfield the strength so Silva and Osorio can control the ball and start distributing. My guess is this midfield will only improve (but fast).

    Caldwell played great, you call it a lucky shot, I call it an inch-perfect assist on Earshaw, who scored a real strikers goal. And when they were leading, they still tried to play forward, try to string passes together and that’s why they didn’t get under pressure from DC. Of course TFC isn’t playoffs material but looking at the last two games, overall play has much improved.

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