After a promising start to season eight, the script writer for everyone's favourite soap opera, Toronto FC, went with an old faithful. Late in the match, when it looked like Toronto would get an unexpected road draw with the league's hottest team, Blas Perez would break their hearts.
But this time the writer was smart. Instead of making it obvious that he was once again going to show a re-run of his favourite episode, he made it look like they might hold on this time. In all three of their victories Toronto have taken the lead and then successfully held on as their opposition creates chance after chance.
The dam, however, has to break eventually, and none better than Perez to play the villain in the 2-1 FC Dallas victory. Heck, he even made devil (and totally not longhorn) horns after scoring the winner. His goal proved to be the difference after two first half tallies from Matt Hedges for the home side and Issey Nakajima-Farran for Toronto.
Nakajima-Farran was the club's player of the match in this one, showing his full potential alongside more creative influences in the midfield. Besides the goal, he was very lively, including a fantastic play in which his back heel ultimately caught Gilberto offside. In Nakajima-Farran Toronto have found a perfect substitute for Alvaro "45 minutes" Rey.
As for the rest of the midfield, this is the first time Michael Bradley didn't look like a man among boys. He and Jonathan Osorio were clearly still feeling the effects of their injury, and it is very surprising that the latter played the entire match. Neither played the kind of influential role that has come to be expected of them. Bekker was serviceable again while Jackson showed bursts, including one burst into an FC Dallas elbow that will likely warrant a look from the league.
Defensively, this idea of a deja-vu narrative continued. Julio Cesar finally got an opportunity to show that he is indeed a fantastic keeper as he made several saves. Toronto also elected to give one of the league's most dangerous teams from set pieces the opportunity to take 16 corners and 14 free kicks in the match. Dallas scored from one of each.
Things may change should he finally score his first goal, but the contrast between Gilberto and the now distant memory of Jermain Defoe is evident on a game by game basis. The Brazilian has lacked consistent service, and probably should have earned a penalty in the second half, but since the DC game he has consistently struggled to effectively integrate into Toronto FC's counter attacking style.
On an important odd man break in the first half Gilberto failed to get the ball to any teammates and ultimately ended up running into the FC Dallas defense. He still deserves time to adjust, especially considering the difference between Major League Soccer and the Brasiliero in terms of playing style. But with every passing game the contrast between his DP tag and his lack of production grows sharper.
Tactically, Ryan Nelsen tried something different, and for most of the match it was fairly effective. His 4-4-1-1 with Gilberto as the lone striker, however, became exposed when it was clear many of the players were not in full fitness. Some earlier substitutions in the second half would have been helpful, but to be fair to Nelsen he didn't exactly have much to work with. Evidence of this is the fact that he put Nick Hagglund on the pitch in an attempt to create an offensive spark after falling behind.
This next week is incredibly crucial for the club, especially in the health department. Having a week off of MLS action means many sore limbs can receive a rest before the team's May 3 home match against the New England Revolution.