Aron Winter had already expressed his admiration for the fans, more or less saying in his post game press conference that the 12th man on the pitch, the supporters, was the only part of Toronto FC's game against DC United he was satisfied with. Directly asked for clarification, if he saw any positives other than the fans, he said "The fans. They were great". "That's it?" "Yes." So, crappy team can't score and loses at home, but hey check out the fans! 2007 all over again
Of course it wasn't exactly like 2007, as even in the stands, away from the supporter's groups, the crowd was just as shabby as the team. The attendance was announced as over 16,000, but it clearly wasn't. The rain had actually stopped before kick off, but bad weather all day must have dissuaded some of the more casual fans, as there were plenty of empty seats, even in the South stand, I'd be surprised if there was even 14,000 there.
But among the supporter's groups, it definitely had a 2007 feel, to fight the cold and the on field misery, especially after the third goal went in, the singing, jumping and flag waving was increased, and even smoke bombs and flares were set off, which caused the police to move in to the North End Elite section, security clearly not as happy as Winter with the supporter's exploits.
As for the game, well alright if I must. I'll get into that after the jump.
There was 20 minutes in the second half, where TFC looked like they might score and it was actually an entertaining game, the Reds going forward with intent, playing a quicker more instinctive game. Sure, they didn't actually score, and their best chances came from another blast from the past, 2010 style this time with Dan Gargan long throws. Sure, the attacking focus left a lot more room for DC to look dangerous on the break, but for a while, TFC looked like a decent team that had a chance to score and could play some entertaining football.
The only problem was that period ended with DC scoring, and that it started with TFC already down by two goals and down to ten men after a debatable straight red card to Ty Harden. Plan A was completely out of the window, we went with three at the back and had to play with a bit of desperation, and that's the only time all game that TFC looked good.
In the first half, TFC looked like what they are, a squad that isn't good enough yet, a team out of it's comfort zone trying to learn a new system, one that is a bit more cerebral, and at this early stage of the Winter regime, is still far from instinctive. This leads to errors, and all three DC goals came from TFC mistakes but I'll get to that later, and even when it doesn't go obviously wrong, the buildups are more often than not too slow and deliberate and lacking the kind of cutting edge necessary to be able to break down a defence. It was just boring.
DC weren't really that much better than TFC, but they didn't need to be, all three goals were gifted to them, and after two in the first ten minutes, they could afford to coast home, absorb what little pressure we put on them and look to attack on the break. The main difference was in the quality up front, Charlie Davies is a legitimately dangerous forward and a genuine scoring threat who will be in serious contention for the Golden Boot as league top scorer this year, and he was ably supported by his fellow forwards, especially Chris Pontius.
The first goal was down to poor decisions from Adrian Cann and Aron Winter. After a long ball up field, Cann had won a header but not cleared it very far, and he made the mistake of chasing after his clearance rather than going back into the defensive line. He was never going to win that second ball, and his absence meant Chris Pontius now only had to beat the covering Right Back. Unfortunately that was Jacob Peterson, and he looked like the converted midfielder he is as Pontius easily went by him before shooting past Stefan Frei.
The second goal, after only 10 minutes, followed a terrible pass by Danleigh Borman. I've been waiting all year for the new 'passing it around defence rather than taking the easy option' tactic to directly lead to a goal, and it finally did. Borman's awful pass across defence was easily intercepted and with Adrian Cann being injured on the play, the defence never had a chance to get back in position as Josh Wolff was able to force a great save from Frei, with Davies knocking in the rebound.
The third goal came after a bad giveaway in midfield from Julian De Guzman. TFC were playing three at the back by this point, so it would be very unfair to blame Dan Gargan for getting beaten by Pontius for his second goal.
As for TFC, mistakes aside they looked relatively solid at the back, but aside from a first minute header wide from Maicon Santos after a Javier Martina cross, their only good chances came from set pieces, Nana Attakora with two chances late in the first half from a corner and free kick, and then Jacob Peterson having two diving headers from Dan Gargan long throws blocked, one of them cleared off the line. Once again, from open play there was very little.
Were there any positives? Oscar Cordon got his first MLS start and had a decent game, though the fact he got Man of the match despite being subbed off in the 54th minute tells you all you need to know about the lack of options there. Also Nana Attakora came on to replace Adrian Cann, and he looked better than he had in the last couple of games. With Ty Harden suspended and Adrian Cann potentially missing games with bruised ribs, Attakora could get another run in the first team and can hopefully regain his form of last year. Javier Martina also looked impressive at times, though he once again suffered from a lack of support on the right wing.
But really Winter's right, there weren't really any definite positives to take from the game as far as the team is concerned, and I can't see it improving any time soon. So far out of 6 games, there's only been one, in San Jose where TFChave looked good for more than a brief stretch of 10 or 20 minutes here and there, and with the MLS transfer window now closed until the summer, this squad is pretty much all Winter has to work with. Let's hope the supporters can continue to provide the entertainment, it's very rarely going to be found on the pitch.