How to stop Hassli? Grabbing his sock apparently works.
A team that hadn't won in 8 games, playing a team that hadn't won in 6 and it ended in a tie. Toronto FC took a lead into the last few minutes, and gave up the late goal to throw away two more points. The only surprising thing about all that is just how predictable that late goal was. You never quite know how it's going to happen, whether it's a defensive meltdown, a goalkeeping error, or simply a relentless opposition attack finally getting what it deserves, but somehow, someway, TFC will crack at the end, and yesterday was no exception.
This time it was a poorly taken free kick that Quincy Amarikwa failed to clear, which he followed up by completely buying the cross that Roger Torres pretended he was going to put in, in effect just jumping at nothing and leaving a nice open gap for Torres to run into to set things in motion towards the goal. The ball was played out to the right wing and Ryan Johnson was nowhere near tight enough to the winger and the low cross got past Darren O'Dea, Terry Dunfield and Richard Eckersley to Sheanon Williams to sidefoot home, from inside the 6 yard box. So much sloppiness, so so predictable, all that was left was the now familiar beaten down post game interviews with talk of psychological problems and mental weaknesses.
There were definitely good things from TFC, especially when compared to the previous game against Chicago. Whether that's down to the poor quality opposition, or the players reacting well to Paul Mariner's grumpiness and threats after Wednesday's game, who knows?
TFC had the better of the first half, only to be let down by some uncharacteristically poor finishing by Luis Silva. The effort was there from most players, though Eric Hassli was his usual self, spending a lot of the first half looking very frustrated and pouty, never making an attempt to win the ball back when he lost it, and getting himself booked for sarcastically clapping right in the ref's face.
If mariner had wanted to really make a statement and stand behind his talk of effort and fight, Hassli was a prime candidate for a half time substitution, but smartly he did not. Hassli's got the talent to justify his attitude, and no matter his body language he's still the most likely player on the pitch to do something special, and so it proved in the second half with his second goal in as many games. The ball came to him after Terry Dunfield totally whiffed on a shot attempt of his own after a cross from the right and he was able to control it and tuck it just inside the far post, a lovely finish, and at that point TFC were well worth the lead.
From there, it wasn't all downhill per se, TFC just kind of slowly fizzled and never really looked dangerous again while the Union got more and more into the game. Though these things often get adjusted, the possession stats show just 37% for TFC and eventually the pressure grew and grew and of course that led to another sloppy goal, and a tie to extend both winless skids.
For TFC, it's now 9 league games, and from here, they play L.A, New York, then 3 teams fighting for their playoff lives in D.C United, Montreal and Columbus. This was the obvious winnable game to stop the streak extending all the way to the end of the season, they came close, you could even say they deserved the win, though I'd say the tie was a fair result, but in the end they gave it away oh so predictably. There's have to be at least one unpredictable game to stop that streak rather than having the end of the season put TFC out of their misery. If they make it all the way, it would take the streak to 14 games, which would beat the longest winless streak in MLS so far this season, of 13 games, currently belonging to FC Dallas.
It was Dallas, and in particular Julian de Guzman who added insult to TFC's injury last night. After scoring a cracking goal (the sort of outside the box volley he set himself up for many times with TFC, only to hit it well over the bar, something so frequent I now use it as a verb for just that kind of shot 'he de Guzmanned it') in injury time to win their game against Vancouver, he brought out the following statement.
I'll never forget the words of [current TFC manager] Paul Mariner saying that he wants to make sure he'll send me to a last-place team and let me burn in the heat. It worked out for myself, getting the last laugh, the karma of things. Right now who's the last place team in the league and who's battling for the playoffs?
Fun, though t's not something I'd be inclined to make a big deal of. I can totally believe that Mariner did say something to that effect, he gives the impression of really liking who he likes and really not liking who he doesn't like. I really doubt though that this is anything too out of the ordinary in this sort of situation in pro sports when things go wrong between a coach and a star player, given the egos involved, it just usually doesn't get brought up in public this quickly. Just another intriguing subplot in the ongoing drama that is TFC.