Not to get too fourth wallish on you, but yesterday this blog had a rough day. After suffering a couple of bits of bad news recently, including losing a key contributor, yesterday should have been a day to show resolve and mental strength in the face of adversity. The professional thing to do would have been to get home after the game, start early, and get the job done, give 110% and do what I needed to do, all those cliches. Instead, showing an absolute lack of strong direction and leadership, I allowed myself to be pulled all over the place, looking way below my best, ending the night at the Duke of Gloucester before making it home at about midnight. Now here I am, starting way too late and putting in an effort that it would be charitable to describe as half-arsed. So, (you know where this is going don't you?) just like Toronto FC yesterday then. Boom!
I was more than willing to write off last week's loss to Seattle Sounders as the result of simply having to adapt to the Frings injury on the fly against a better team, a bit of a disappointment, but nothing really to be too upset about given the circumstances. But this was a home game against a San Jose Earthquakes team that isn't bad by any means, but is in reality an average MLS team, the type that any serious playoff contender needs to be able to beat at home. This was a much better test of what the next few weeks without Frings might hold. It wasn't pretty.
If you subscribe to the theory that the position of captain is about more than merely calling the coin toss, that a captain should inspire, set the mood, lead by example and all that stuff, then the decision to give the armband to Julian de Guzman was as curious as last year's annointment of Maicon Santos to the role. There were very few obvious choices, and maybe Aron Winter thought it might be a way to motivate de Guzman into the type of determind and productive performance TFC would need in the absence of frings. Sadly it didn't inspire de Guzman, who put in another of the insipid performances that TFC fans have seen way too many times, and equally sadly, the rest of the team did follow his example.
It wasn't all bad by any means, the second half of the first half and the first half of the second half, TFC played some good football, creating a few half chances, though most of their shots came from outside the area as it never quite fully clicked up front. Reggie Lambe had his best showing in a TFC shirt so far, not a great performance by any means, but showing some signs of life out there on the Right Wing. After again starting on the bench, Danny Koevermans' second half performance was the sharpest we've seen from him this year. He was much more involved, winning headers and creating chances, most notably with some great work out wide that saw him put a cross right there for Ryan Johnson to be able to hit home. Johnson completely missed unfortunately, summing up his day as his timing seemed just slightly off and he wasn't able to continue his goal scoring streak.
Sadly though, there was a lot of things that went wrong. Despite the home opener buzz and extra hoopla such as our own mini airshow, TFC really didn't show up for kickoff. San Jose dominated early on as TFC seemed to struggle with the wind, and they capitalised on that early pressure, scoring from a header that was ridiculously sloppy from TFC's perspective. Poor marking and an inept offside trap giving Chris Wondolowski, who's you know, a pretty good goalscorer that you might want to keep your eye on if you're a defender, a free header that he unsurprisingly buried.
The wind continued to play havoc, and that combined with having to deal with a lot of backpasses of varying difficulty meant Milos Kocic had a rough first half, almost gifting San Jose another goal when he dropped a high ball. Playing behind TFC's defence has got be a bit of a nightmare job for any goalie, by the end of last year Stefan Frei seemed almost shellshocked, and Kocic had a similarly rattled look by the end of the first half yesterday. The second goal he allowed in at the near post which is one he'd definitely want back, and the third, well there wasn't much he could do there as the defence left him completely out to dry. With Frei out for 10 weeks with a broken leg, Kocic is going to have his work cut out for him with no respite from the shooting gallery.
The second and third goals were very similar, and much like in the second half of the Seattle game showed just how unorganised the current attempt at a flat back 4 really is without Torsten Frings to hold them together. The second started when Ashtone Morgan, who was playing a very advanced role throughout the game, fell over and San Jose broke with speed and numbers, and took advantage of the panic that followed, with several poor decisions from TFC defenders. The third saw good forward play from Stephen Lenhart pull Miguel Aceval out of position, and a quick chip over the defence from Sam Cronin set the attacker free. A very good move from San Jose, but once again, poor decisions from the backline, and poor effort to get back and help out from the midfielders made it way too easy for Wondolowski to net his second of the day.
At that point, a large portion of the crowd decided to leave, their perseverance through some thoroughly miserable weather unrewarded. The rest decided to boo, and from there TFC were never going to come back and 3-0 it ended, all the worries people had about how the defence would hold up fully confirmed.
The lack of leadership in defence was fully exposed as they crumbled under pressure, and panicked when having to react to a San Jose break. Going back to a flat back 4 has proven disastrous so far, maybe Adrian Cann can be the leader needed to organise things and whip his defensive partners into shape, maybe it's too tough a task to ask of any man. One thing's for certain, the answer was certainly not on the pitch last night. The CCL semi final against Santos Laguna now seems like a laughably implausible task. More importantly, there's a lot of winnable games in the MLS schedule before Frings returns. TFC have lost their first two games, if they're to have any hope of making the playoffs this year, something will have to change quickly.