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FC Dallas 1:0 Toronto FC. Winter discontent, but TFC have only themselves to blame.

"They're deciding how the game is going to finish, they decide everything, and this makes me upset, it wasn't a penalty."  "It's ridiculous, you can never win against them, they're playing their own game, it's not nice any more."

"The score was decided in the first half, if the ref doesn't give the penalty, it's a completely different game, every game we have got some problems with the ref, it's ridiculous honestly."

"I'm still a little bit upset, every time i say something about the ref.  It's ridiculous, it's ridiculous, you never can win against them, and I don't know what other officials are doing because last week they call the penalty off because the linesman says something, now the linesman is doing nothing, I don't know."

All of the above quotes were from Aron Winter's post game interview which was quite frankly more entertaining than the game itself, as Toronto FC played an uninspired game and lost 1-0 against FC Dallas, the goal coming from a very debatable penalty decision right at the end of the first half.  A harsh decision, but one that hardly decided the game given there was still another half left to play.

The first half had actually gone fairly well for TFC.  The only change to the starting line up from Saturday was Danleigh Borman reclaiming his spot at Left Back, and that continuity helped make sure there wasn't another one of those horribly disjointed first 20 minutes or so that TFC  have made their speciality this year.  For the first half hour or so, they kept Dallas away from any kind of dangerous chances, and weren't just sitting back but were taking the game to Dallas.  Joao Plata again looked the liveliest of Toronto's forwards, not as dangerous as he was against Houston, but often cutting inside and finding a very good balance between keeping the ball and trying to do things himself and involving his teammates.  Alen Stevanovic and Nick Soolsma really weren't doing much though and most of TFC's chances came from long range efforts.

Dallas did come into the game more towards the end, but overall the first half was very similar to Saturday's, TFC looked solid and not really threatened at all in defence, and getting the better of possession without looking too dangerous up front themselves.  All in all, a very good first half away from home against a better team.

Unfortunately that's when the penalty was given for a very soft foul, the sort of contact you see every time there's a free kick and players jostling for position in the box.  This was the 5th penalty in 5 games given against TFC at Pizza Hut Park, and Daniel Hernandez scored to give Dallas the 1-0 lead.  Aron Winter and Bob de Klerk weren't happy about it and de Klerk ended up getting a red card for his protests.  Winter's right, it was ridiculous, and it did change the game.

But that really should be the end of the excuses, there were still 45 minutes left for TFC to chase the game and try and get a result, yet the second half was very poor and they never looked likely to score.  Winter's substitutions were all uninspiring and really didn't make a difference. Javier Martina, Maicon Santos and Mikael Yourassowsky all came on fairly early, which sounds attacking, but they replaced the three starting forwards, so there was never a more attacking formation, and a sense of urgency never seemed to develop at all.  If Winter was hoping to light a fire under Santos and Martina by dropping them from the starting eleven, it doesn't seem to have worked at least on the evidence of this game.

FC Dallas are a decent defensive side, so it may be a little harsh to complain that TFC were unable to break them down, maybe it's down to fatigue catching up with them after all the recent games, but it would have been nice to see some positive intent.  Instead though the game just fizzled out and TFC came away with nothing.  It's not to say there weren't positives, the defence once again looked solid, and Adrian Cann and Dicoy Williams look like they're developing a very good partnership, and Tony Tchani had a good game in midfield. But without Alan Gordon at the head of the attacking three, and with Joao Plata subbed early, TFC once again struggled in the final third of the pitch.

Winter's complaints about the penalty and MLS referees in general certainly aren't unfounded, though they likely will earn him a fine, but it really can't be used as an excuse.  He immediately had 15 minutes at half time to inspire his troops or change tactics, and there was still 45 minutes to play.  He still had eleven men, he still had all three substitutions to use, the game was by no means decided

Reinhold Neibuhr's serenity prayer includes the well known phrase

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Lame?  Kind of, but it's also very good advice for any MLS coach.  John Carver never really got used to the quirks of MLS refereeing, and Winter seems to be on the same track of frustration and obsession.  He could have done something to change the way his team was playing, a more attacking formation perhaps or increasing the forwards rather than replacing them, instead he chose to simply blame everything on the refs. 

It was an entertaining rant, and it's true the refs can be bad, and that penalty decision was a very weak one, but it's all a bit of a copout really.  There's always going to be bad decisions from referees, especially in MLS and he's by no means the only person to complain, but as Jacob Peterson said post game, "We've got to come together as a team and be mentally tough enough to overcome that, and I didn't think we had enough in the second half".   

Well done Jacob, that's why TFC lost, not because of the referee.