Home MLS Toronto FC Winter ‘can’t believe’ TFC lost to 10-man Sounders

Winter ‘can’t believe’ TFC lost to 10-man Sounders

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Toronto FC’s 3-0 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on April 29 was particularly poor showing since it seemed the Reds barely even showed up at Qwest Field on that day. Yet, while TFC played considerably better in the reverse fixture on Saturday, the result was even more bitter.

Despite playing almost the entire second half with an extra man, Toronto couldn’t score against the 10-man Rave Green side. Then, in yet another crushing late-game blow, Fredy Montero converted a free kick to give Seattle the 1-0 victory.

“It’s incredible that we have lost the game that we deserved to win. We played very well and in the end we gave it away,” said TFC head coach Aron Winter. “It’s hard that we lost since we deserved more than defeat.”

The Reds were clearly the better team in the first half and largely dominated play from the 30-minute mark to the halftime whistle. When Sounders FC defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado picked up his second booking of the game and was ejected in the 49th minute, it seemed like Toronto had three points in the bag.

As the second half progressed, however, the home side rarely applied the attacking pressure they showed earlier in the match. The Reds seemed to be waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, rather than just trying to overwhelm SFC with the 11-on-10 advantage.

“When you have one more you must only play simple and let the ball do the work because you always have one man free,” said forward Nick Soolsma. “We also went for the difficult pass and you must be smart and play easy or else the moment’s gone. I think that we have to do better but still we had some chances and it’s still unlucky that we lost.”

TFC’s best chance of the second half came in the 81st minute. Joao Plata caused problems for Seattle all day down the left side and, once again, the diminutive striker got down the field and managed a cross. Javier Martina, who had entered the game 10 minutes earlier in place of Alen Stevanovic, had plenty of room to shoot and goalkeeper Kasey Keller out of position….but Martina banked his shot off the right post.

That near-miss was the beginning of the end for TFC. The Reds’ lack of offence in the second half was in part due to a preponderance of fouls committed that killed their momentum; TFC’s 18 fouls in the game matched their season high. And, sure enough, it was a foul that ultimately cost them in the game.

In the 90th minute, center back Doneil Henry fouled Mauro Rosales just outside the box. Montero lined up for the free kick from 25 yards and sent a rocket over the wall and into the right corner of the net, over a leaping Stefan Frei.

The goal spurred on a round of booing from the announced crowd of 21,839 on hand at BMO Field that seemed more directed at the home side than it was at Sounders FC. The boos continued at the final whistle as the Reds’ home record dropped under the .500 mark to 2-3-5 on the season.

After the game, Frei was critical of the foul that led to the Montero free kick and, in fairness, even the call that gave Hurtado the second yellow.

“I don’t like the way we gave that foul. I don’t even know if it was a foul,” Frei said. “It’s the 90th minute, the guy goes down soft and obviously they’re looking for that down a man…I think the referee falls for it. I let him know at the end of the game and I think games are being decided too many times by stupid decisions.”

While the way that the Reds lost the game was gutting given the circumstances, the fact that they lost wasn’t a surprise given the injury-riddled TFC lineup. Julian de Guzman, Alan Gordon, Tony Tchani, Nana Attakora and Jacob Peterson were all out with injuries and Nathan Sturgis was removed at halftime for precautionary reasons in regards to a knock. While none are expected to be out for significantly long stretches, Winter didn’t want to predict if any would be available for next Saturday’s game at Real Salt Lake.

“We’re missing a leader on the pitch,” Winter said. “That’s why it’s also a loss that we couldn’t play today with Alan Gordon because of an injury….We play that much better when he’s playing.”

Despite the loss, Winter said he still took several positives about his team’s play, such as how the Reds are adapting to his system and how the younger players in the lineup stepped up in place of the injured regulars. To that end, Winter said he still thinks his team has a chance to reach the postseason for the first time in club history.

“In this league anything is possible,” Winter said. “[The playoffs], that’s the target I’ve still got in my mind. If you win two games on the road then it’s completely different in the standings.”

TFC will have to get two road wins and then some in order to make the playoffs. The Reds have just two wins from their first 17 games (the halfway point of the MLS schedule) and play 10 of their remaining 17 away from BMO Field. While you can never make too much of one game, it’s hard to imagine the playoffs could be in the future of any team that couldn’t even capitalize on 41 minutes of extra-man soccer.

“When we were playing with 11 we were the better team and we were giving nothing away,” Winter said. “I’m a little bit upset and I can’t believe we lost the game.”

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