With many fans looking past this game to Tuesday night's game against FC Dallas there was not much expected from Toronto FC as they took to the field at PPL Park. The Union came in to the game sitting on top of the Eastern Conference and in need of only one point to clinch their playoff berth. That meant that the Union would certainly be going for the game while from a TFC perspective this game was not much more than a tune up for the massive CCL showdown midweek.
In the end the 1-1 draw was one of the best performances from TFC this season in terms of just getting the job done. They managed to fight back from 1 down thanks to a very good goal by Ryan Johnson and other then the series of mistakes from Milos Kocic, Ty Harden, and Torsten Frings that allowed Sebastian Le Toux to score the opener the back line was again very solid.
Philly fans will probably be happy with the point since it meant that in only their second season in the league they will be heading to the playoffs but for the team on top of the east they were generally quite unimpressive. It may have been due to them also looking past this game and having one eye already on the playoffs or that they did not expect this much of a fight from Toronto but in the end the 1-1 draw seems a fair result and both teams will be happy with it in the bigger picture.
For Toronto the best news of the night is that all the players who will be playing a key roll against FC Dallas got through this game unscathed. In my eyes the game was also one of the best performances from Aron Winter as manager from the perspective of how he managed his players and ensured that they remained fresh for midweek. With Dunfield and Deguzman having played heavy minutes over the international break both were given the day off to rest up. Morgan was also with Canada but he only played a handful of minutes so he was able to go the full 90 today. Danny Koevermans who still has a bit of a limp from a knee bruise was on the bench today but did not get in to the match which will give him a couple more days to get healthy and he will surely now be good to go for the Dallas game. Frings played the better part of an hour in that sweeper role before being taken off so he should also be ready to go against Dallas. Jaoa Plata who was playing his first game after returning from injury was taken out after 60 minutes and will also be available for selection come Tuesday night. In the end Winter managed to ensure the key players all got the minutes they needed to ensure a level of sharpness and gave them rest where needed. That means that going into Dallas nothing from this game can be used as an excuse or blamed for the result if TFC fail to win.
Back to the game itself we again saw the issue for TFC that arises from deciding where to play Torsten Frings. If he is in the central midfield he is able to help create chances for the team going forward but then the back four look suspect at best. Then on days like today when he is in that sweeper role the teams defending is far better but the team seems to lack any real bite going forward. That problem was only compounded with no JDG in the middle of the park. The few moments that TFC did get forward on the attack it came as a result of good efforts from players like Avila and Soolsma.
This game was another chance for many of Toronto's midseason acquisitions to show that they have value for the club going forward and should be kept around for at least the start of next season. I think that a number of the players managed to do just that today. Ryan Johnson showed the quality he possesses with the goal that he scored, Eric Avila proved again that he can be a very lively addition to the midfield, Matt Stinson was solid once again and even Soolsma had enough good moments. The one real question mark in the lineup tonight for me was Doneil Henry, I do expect him to stick around, but I was not overly impressed with him despite having a solid game for the most part.
Tonight TFC also got to that magical 40 players used in all competitions with the inclusion of Kyle Davies as a late sub. He had very little time to make an impact but he will hopefully get a proper look in the final league game just so that the club can see what they have in him. TFC picked him up from the Galaxy for next to nothing so even if he is a solid depth defender he would be a welcome addition. From the little we saw of him today he did look like a player who has been out of match action for a long time. There was some obvious rust and his touch let him down a couple of times but other than that there was little of note. He did not make any real mistakes in his defending which is more then you can say for many of the defenders that have debuted for TFC this season.
The low point of this game for me has to be the fact that the Union are heading to the playoffs now. As TFC fans we have now been waiting 5 seasons for our kick at the playoff can and have seen a number of different terrible sides pull on the club colours but Union fans get to see their side go to the playoffs in only their second MLS season despite them being terrible in their debut season. If you want a positive way to look at it, the Union turnaround is an example of what TFC might be able to do next season. Based on the performance that the Reds gave today Ryan Johnson might not be far off when he said that the current TFC squad are a playoff quality team. Another defender is still needed, mainly so Frings can go back to being a mid, but the team is making clear progress. I mean even Andy Iro and Ty Harden have shown a decent amount of competence of late, even if they will never be great defenders they can provide depth when partnered with the right player.
The point also keeps Toronto in good shape to avoid finishing last in the East. A single point from their final game of the season against New England will do the trick and even that might not be needed if the Revolution fail to win tonight against Columbus. It also keeps the Reds 4 points up on the Vancouver Whitecaps for the battle tfor he top seed in next seasons Voyageurs Cup and the title of being Canada's least awful MLS team. It really has been a tough season when all we have to hang our hat on is two minor trophies, not being last in the east, and hopefully finishing better than Vancouver. That could all change though if TFC gets the result they need against Dallas. Then all of a sudden this season would look a lot more like a success considering it has been a year of building once again.