Doneil Henry strikes again
It could be argued that Toronto FC were unlucky against the Chicago Fire on Saturday, given that they'd held on until late in the game, only to have the winner scored on a free kick called against them on a play that saw Jeremy Hall injured, and thus off the pitch, leaving TFC with 9 men, very nicely embodying that whole 'insult to injury' phrase. That would be wrong though, TFC got exactly what they deserved from this game, 0 points.
This game was all Chicago, all the time. Some wasteful finishing from Chicago, some good saves from Milos Kocic and seem desperate last ditch defending saw TFC keep the Fire off the board until the 64th minute, and almost manage to escape with a point, but there can be no complaints really.
The big pre game news was that Eric Hassli would be making his debut, and though he wasn't really all that involved, given how much time the ball spent in the other half of the pitch, there were several moments where he showed his class. He won plenty of balls, and was able to lay the ball off to teammates quickly and accurately. More than that though, he just looked threatening, a real dangerous presence that just had to be respected. It's no coincidence that the first Chicago goal came shortly after his exit, or that Chicago were even more dominant after that substitution.
Hassli had to be taken off, he was clearly tired in his first game back from injury, but Paul Mariner's other substitutions were very debatable and did nothing to help. All game Chicago had been relentlessly attacking, and his answer to that seemed to be to just bunker down and invite them to keep on coming, rather than try and take the game to them. Reggie Lambe was taken off for Jeremy Hall, a downgrade of our attacking threat, later on, Doneil Henry was subbed off, and his replacement wasn't Eric Avila, who could have provided an attacking spark, or at least given the Fire something to worry about, nope it was Aaron Maund. Another defensive midfielder, with Jeremy Hall moving to Henry's right back spot.
By then the Fire had already seen what TFC were doing, or more pertinently not doing, and brought on Brazilian attacking midfielder Alex, in place of Logan Pause, and the incessant pressure did eventually tell. The way the 2nd goal happened was a bit on the cruel side for sure, the fact that it happened at all was the world's most inevitable thing.
The 1st goal was a lot more avoidable, with all sorts of sloppiness and blame to go around. A ball in to the box saw Doneil Henry get to it first, but his clearance was soft, and across the box rather than out. It went to Logan Emory, who was obviously surprised and it bounced off him to Marco Pappa. He was all of a sudden through on goal, Milos Kocic came out to try to get to the ball first, and missed, and Pappa then managed to slot the ball past Richard Eckersly on the line.
Pappa had a role in TFC's goal as well, an equally sloppy one from Chicago's viewpoint, Pappa's errant backpass going straight to Ryan Johnson, who fooled Sean Johnson into going the wrong way, and slotted it home, while simultaneously slipping, the more times I watch the replay, the more it looks like it was a happy acccident rather than a cool calm collected finish. Oh well, they all count, and that's 2 in consecutive games now for Johnson, hopefully that will boost his confidence and lead to more.
If that might have been a bit lucky, it went the other way just before half time, Johnson knocked the ball back to Luis Silva, who didn't seem to be expecting it, but recovered and got a shot off that Johnson parried and which rolled agonisingly off the post.
TFC didn't come as close again, and never really looked like they were going to. Another performance where they were massively outpassed and outpossessed. While Hassli was on the pitch, there was a chance we might have gotten something from it, without him, well we just don't have the quality to play that sort of game and hope for better than what we got.
That 3 game win streak is now long gone, as are all faint hopes of playoffs it may have brought to some people, which again is what we deserve, even if you take out the 1-9 start under Aron Winter, the team under Mariner isn't a playoff quality team. The 4 wins under him have come against 4 weak teams. Being able to beat poor teams is certainly a step up from earlier in the season, but you need to be able to compete against the good teams, and we're not there yet. When Hassli is fully fit and able to play the full 90, that will help, hopefully so will the addition of Darren o'Dea. Until then, I guess we can expect more of the same.