This time there was no Vancouver-esque happy ending to the weather shenanigans for Toronto FC. Once again given a second chance with the 1-0 deficit wiped out, they couldn't capitalise and lost anyway in front of a crowd of a few hundred who didn't have to be at work. That's 3 1/2 times now that TFC have lost 1-0 to FC Dallas this season, but this one really hurts as it makes the tough task of qualifying for the CCL quarter finals almost impossible.
Who knows how big a part fatigue after the 45 minutes the night before played in the decision, or if it was purely tactical after a poor 45 minutes with the 4-3-3 but Aron Winter went back to the 3-4-3 formation, with Torsten Frings once again in defence. Defensively it more or less paid off with Dallas held to only one goal, but there was a definite lack of spark up front. TFC had their chances, and the first half really wasn't bad at all, but Peri Marosevic, Ryan Johnson and Joao Plata were unable to finish, and the second half saw way too many long balls as TFC were unable to break Dallas down.
With Frings back in defence, and Danny Koevermans out injured the extra quality and energy that their signings and the rest of the summer shakeup brought all seems to have gone a bit flat now. Johnson, Marosevic and Plata have all scored at least twice since those signings but they all work best as secondary scoring threats supporting Koevermans, and don't seem to quite have what it takes to step up and be the main threat when defenders can fully concentrate on them. Johnson has struggled as a Centre Forward against MLS defences, whereas Plata seems to have decided he needs to do more, trying to do too much way too often. It's no surprise that since Koevermans was injured against Tauro, TFC haven't scored a goal, whereas they were going at more or less 2 goals a game when he was playing. It may also have something to do with missing Eric Avila's ability as a more skillful attacking midfielder as well.
It wasn't a terrible performance by any means, fatigue is a very legitimate excuse for this one, and there's no real shame in losing to a team as good as Dallas is, but it once again shows that despite that 6 game unbeaten streak, there's a lot of work left to do with this squad. Of course we all already knew that, so there's no big revelations to be had from this game, other than perhaps learning from Dallas on the merits of good coaching, being an organised side and looking to Central and South America as an area to bring in talented players.
I'm not going to say CCL qualification is completely impossible, but with Dallas taking a stranglehold of the group, TFC are going to be competing with Pumas UNAM for that second spot, which means they are probably going to have to match 2010's haul of 4 points against Mexican opponents. Crazier things have happened, mainly those games against Cruz Azul, Preki's team thoroughly outplaying them for the unlikely 2-1 home win, and then Nick Dasovic's team successful and even more unlikely parking of the bus for a 0-0 draw in Mexico.
But really, the last vestiges of hope, of something other than pride to play for, of something to keep the fans interested, are now more or less gone. It's not really surprising, and I'm a bit shocked I feel as melancholy about this as I do. I wasn't seriously expecting to compete with Pumas and Dallas, and really just getting this far was as much as we could have legitimately asked for given the unpreparedness of the team at the start of the season and the chaos that has gone right through the season itself. We're not totally out of it yet, and it could be worse, Whitecaps fans have known their season was over since July 2, but still, it's always a sad day when hope is realistically snuffed out.