Home MLS Toronto FC TFC throws away two points by surrendering two-goal lead

TFC throws away two points by surrendering two-goal lead

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Toronto FC has left a number of points on the table at BMO Field this season, taking just 10 of a possible 21 points from its seven home matches. No home result was a bigger giveaway, however, than Saturday’s 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire. The Reds went from a comfortable 2-0 lead through 62 minutes to barely hanging on for the single point.

“Around the 60th minute we thought this game was over,” said TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei. “It’s just laziness. You can be confident with a 2-0 lead after the 60th minute, there’s nothing wrong with that, but you can’t get lazy. It’s embarrassing if you’re up two goals after 60 minutes and you almost end up losing. It’s all about hard work and not being lazy.”

Chicago captain Marco Pappa cut TFC’s lead in half with a beautiful free kick conversion in the 63rd minute, and this goal breathed life into the Fire’s attack. The Chicago side picked up the pressure and found the equalizer in the 76th minute. Midfielder Corben Bone drew coverage on the right side and sent a pass through the box to a wide-open Orr Barouch, who slid to knock the ball into the net.

With the two-goal lead evaporated, Toronto spent the remainder of the game just trying to salvage a draw. The Reds just looked out of sorts in the final 15 minutes, with sloppy clearances, passing and just looking a step slower than the Fire on challenges for the ball.

TFC dodged a bullet in the 84th minute when a wide-open Dan Paladini was stopped on a breakaway chance due to a tremendous save from Frei. The Toronto keeper caught just enough of the ball with his arm to deflect the chance away.

“I tried to see if [Paladini] was going to take a wrong touch to allow me to close him down, but he had a solid first touch,” Frei said. “So, I just came out and tried to make myself big and give myself a chance to react if he gave me an opportunity. The rest I don’t know much about, to be honest, it was just a reaction.”

The tie gives TFC a 2-1-4 home record this season, hardly the type of results a team wants on its own pitch. But for the first hour of the match, it looked as if Toronto was perhaps due for a comfortable victory thanks in large part to the efforts of striker Joao Plata.

Just nine minutes into the contest, Plata converted his second goal in as many home matches. Plata took a seemingly innocuous pass from fellow striker Nick Soolsma in Chicago’s end and didn’t have much space to maneuver, which perhaps fooled the Fire defenders into letting their guard down. Plata then unleashed a rocket of a shot past diving goalkeeper Jon Conway and into the right side of the Fire net.

Plata’s goal was the highlight of a strong first half for the Reds. They generated seven shots in the opening 45 minutes, with Plata, Soolsma and (returning to the Starting XI) captain Maicon Santos causing problems up front. The Fire was having trouble keeping possession as Tony Tchani and Julian de Guzman formed a formidable midfield duo, clamping down on loose balls and stuffing chances before they could develop.

De Guzman, however, made a costly personal error by picking up a yellow card in the 25th minute. He will now be suspended for TFC’s next league game, May 22 at Colorado, due to caution accumulation.

While de Guzman felt he should’ve gotten a warning instead of a booking, that fateful next yellow card “was going to come eventually,” he explained.

“I’m always in the mix of running into attacking plays and [the referee] is trying to decide or whether it’s a tackle or whether it’s a foul.”

TFC’s strong start got even stronger in the 47th minute. Santos sent in a long-range shot from around 40 yards out that Conway mishandled and let roll into the net. It was a gift of a goal for the Brazilian forward, his team-leading third of the season.

It looked as if Toronto had the match well in hand at that moment, a fair result for the 18,674 supporters at BMO Field who braved a rainstorm to see their home side. Things started to go south for TFC, however, when Plata was substituted out in the 61st minute for Alen Stevanovic. While Stevanovic and the other strikers weren’t to blame for TFC’s defensive breakdown, Plata’s absence seemed to suck the life out of the Reds’ attack, opening the door for the Fire.

“I think in the second half we didn’t want to play anymore,” said TFC head coach Aron Winter. “That’s why I think we lost, because in the first half we were chasing up and pushing up and putting pressure in the front. Then in the second half after the second goal we didn’t do that anymore, and that’s why I think we have given away two points.”

Plata has started five of TFC’s last six games in all competitions, but only once has he played the full 90 minutes. Winter explained that he took the 19-year-old out of the Chicago match in order to keep him fresh.

“Plata is very young,” Winter said. “He played well but you saw at that moment he was a little bit tired. You have to be careful with those younger players so I changed him. In the coming weeks we are playing a lot of games and at the moment the score was 2-0.”

Plata’s removal seemed like sound logic at the time, but in the wake of the disappointing finish, one suspects Plata will see more minutes on Wednesday when TFC faces Vancouver in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final.

In terms of what the club can learn from the match, defender Dan Gargan felt the poor finish could be a wake-up call for the young Reds.

“It’s good to get slapped in the mouth every once in a while,” Gargan said. “It sure feels like a loss. We come out with a point but single points at home don’t really mean much in this league. I think we’re disappointed but we have a big game on Wednesday and this is a big month for us. We’re kind of learning as we go.”

Frei, meanwhile, looked at the opening hour of the match as a sign of how good the Reds can be if they play to their potential.

“If you want to look at the positives, we dominated the first half possession-wise and chance-wise. Great movement, great combinations at time and it was everything we’re looking for,” Frei said. “We saw that it can be successful and that we have the ability to do it. The one thing we have to remember is that the game is 90 minutes long, not 60 minutes.”

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One Comment

  1. Maxmillien E Rosenberg

    May 16, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    felt like the Plata sub was the turning point of the match

    -Max

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