The little guy darted in from the left wing, at about the halfway line, and a murmur went up in the crowd. He kept going, running directly at goal, and when he got to the 18 yard box, the crowd was on it's feet urging him on. He still kept going, untouched and unstoppable, and his run ended gloriously, in the net as the crowd gave the loudest cheer of the night.
Unfortunately, the little guy in question wasn't Joao Plata, it was a squirrell that came on the pitch at half time, and that seriously was the highlight of the night. A scoreless and uninspired game was reflected by a small and apathetic crowd, even the prescence of Turncoat Teal Bunbury didn't really rouse much passion. Sure there was a couple of banners, and he got some booing, but nowhere near the volume or vitriol he might reasonably have expected.
Sure, there were a few moments of excitement, Maicon Santos briefly woke up from another uninterested looking game to go a run which ended with a hard left foot shot that forced a good save. Doneil Henry almost scored right at the end with a header from a free kick, and Sporting Kansas City forced a couple of saves out of Stefan Frei. All in all though, this was a poor game from both sides, the dullest game seen this year at BMO Field, but one that under the circumstances, both teams are probably fairly happy with.
'The circumstances' for Kansas was that this was the final game of their season opening 10 game road trip and another valuable point in the standings before what they hope will be a rise up the table after finally getting to play at their new home.
For Toronto FC, this was the first game since the 6-2 embarrassment at home so getting the clean sheet is a definite step forward. Nana Attakora finally got a start in defence and showed why his absence has been so puzzling, putting in a very good performance, and together with Ty Harden, and a very deep lying Nathan Sturgis in the Defensive Midfielder spot, he kept Teal Bunbury, Omar Bravo and co very quiet.
Part of that defensive solidity involved cutting down on the mistakes that kept gifting Philadelphia goals last week and again, a good job was done there, apart from Danleigh Borman being caught upfield once or twice and the midfielders not covering him, there really weren't any obvious errors from the defence. There were fewer than usual giveaways in bad positions, which in a way is a good thing, but is also a reason that nothing ever really got going up front either. I wouldn't go as far as to say TFC abandoned the passing from the back and possession game that Aron Winter has been preaching all season, but there was definitely a lot less of it, and a lot more longer balls forward out of defence. It was as if after last week, this game was all about getting back to the basics of solid defending, and then get the ball the hell out of there.
You can't deny that in one sense, it got the job done, 0 goals against is a welcome step forward from last week's 6, but it also played a huge part in the 0 goals TFC scored themselves. As I said last week, this season is going to be about a lot of small steps forward with the occasional giant fall back. In a way this was a good restart after last week, especially with a weakened team, a resetting of the basics. Now we need to start stepping forward again at the offensive side of things, and find the balance between safety and creativity that will allow us to occasionally look like scoring without causing problems at the back.
Hopefully TFC can do that soon, as their schedule is about to get a lot tougher with more away games coming up, starting next week in L.A against the Galaxy. But if it's quality football or entertainment you're after, well thank god for the Gold Cup, and squirrells.