TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 1: Ashtone Morgan #5 of Toronto FC races for the ball with Dane Richards #19 of New York Red Bulls during MLS action at BMO Field October 1, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
So where to begin with this match? Well I had to take some time off before writing this report because at the end of the game all I could think about was my personal hate for Thierry Henry and feeling like in the end this game was two dropped points for TFC. If I had written my report along those lines though it would have been very unfair to a Toronto FC team that put in a very solid all around effort tonight. In fact I would say that it was one of the best team performances of the season despite the lack of real threats going forward. Several of Toronto FC's younger players put in impressive performances, Koevermans scored yet another goal, and in the end the only thing that broke down TFC was a very impressive goal from Henry.
The game felt like 2 points lost considering the fact that Henry's goal did not come until the 87th minute but if you look at how Toronto has fared against the Red Bulls of late then I bet you most TFC fans would have taken the draw before the match. Add to that the fact that New York should have been desperate to win this game to ensure they remain in the playoff race. For them anything less then 3 points has to be a big letdown considering the game against Toronto FC was the easiest one left on their schedule.
So starting with the biggest positive of the night. Aside from a few set pieces Toronto looked very organized and really made things difficult for the talented attacking players limiting them to only a couple of good chances. Once again Iro and Harden looked almost competent along side of Torsten Frings. Toronto did not have much going forward but with Terry Dunfield getting the start ahead of Julian De Guzman and Frings being in the back line that was probably to be expected. Dunfield again had his issues and in my eyes he has yet to really show me anything impressive since coming over from the Vancouver Whitecaps. The attacking trio did well in the game to take advantage of chances when they came their23 way and as usual Danny Koevermans proved that he only needs one opening to make the opposition pay. His goal tonight might have had a lot to do with Rafa Marquez just not wanting to even try as it was his turnover that gifted the ball to Dunfield and then showed no interest in tracking back as Ryan Johnson was able to have all kinds of time on the ball and drive at the defenders. He managed to pick out Koevermans who did a great job to first hold the line and stay onside and then finished well with his left foot. The goal once again showed the value of Danny who now has 7 goals in 9 MLS games and continues to make his chances count at a very high rate.
Koevermans goal was certainly the second best of the night though. Thierry Henry proved that he is still capable of scoring a world class goal on his day when he struck in the 87th minute. The critical side of me wants to say that with so many Toronto players in the box one of them should have been able to cut out the ball before it got to Henry but once it got there it took a special finish to unlock a Toronto team that had defended well despite being on the back foot for much of the final twenty minutes. If you have not see the Henry goal you can catch it in the game in 6 minutes highlight pack. It really was something to behold as Henry took a brilliant first touch to bring the ball down, spun around, found the net in the blink of an eye and finished. He showed the instincts that made him a world class striker in his prime as he just knew where the net was and did not hesitate to take his chance. For much of the game Henry was a non-factor but the problem with quality strikers like him and Koevermans is that they only need one chance to put their mark on the game.
The other big thing to take from this match for me is a continued positive feeling about the impact that Toronto FC's academy is starting to have on the club. Earlier this week Canadian Soccer News noted that Ashtone Morgan might just be the most important player in TFC history. Not because of his impact but because he shows a clear path for other young soccer players to follow. Morgan is a Canadian kid from the Toronto area who came up through the academy, broke in with the first team, and has now been called to play for the Canadian National team. Tonight though he was not the only academy grad that impressed. Matt Stinson played what in my eyes was by far his best match in a TFC shirt. He got the start in place of the injured Richard Eckersley and despite right back not being his natural position Stinson was great tonight and barely ever put a foot wrong. In fact he was so good tonight in that position that I think Winter and his coaching staff should now give some serious consideration to using him there more often in the future. For tonight at least though Stinson and Morgan made up the two sides of the back line and put on a pair of impressive displays that proved the academy system is worth the investment and is the way forward for TFC in the long run. The game saw another academy product in Doniel Henry make a late sub appearance but he had little time to make any actual impact.
On the whole, this game was a good one for TFC considering it took place in a lost season. Sure the playoff hopes did not mathematically end until tonight but in all seriousness they were over long ago. For Toronto it is about seeing what we have going forward and building confidence ahead of the game against Dallas. This game showed that there is some young talent coming through the system that will push for playing time into next season and that is something to be excited about. Then at the end of the day TFC did take 2 points off the Energy Drinks and if they do end up missing the playoffs this will be one of the games they look back to and wonder why they did not manage to pick up a win.