Braun 85', Russell 90'
Jacobson 34', Perez 59'
|Substitutions||Silva for Osorio 45'
Braun for Bostock 73'
A. Morgan for Eckersley 89'
Woodberry for John 45'
Castillo for Cooper 72'
Warshaw for Benitez 86'
70 minutes of listless soccer, followed by 20 of brilliance: that's usually when bad things happen for TFC. But for once, that wasn't the case. Within a span of six minutes, the Reds were able to erase a 2-0 deficit on FC Dallas, and send the North Texans home with just a point rather than three.
Andrew Jacobson's cool slot in the first half, followed by Blas Perez's strike early in the second, were wiped out, first by a Justin Braun header in the 85th minute, and then at the death of regulation, by a stunning strike from about 25 yards out by the much reviled Darel Russell.
The game started flat on both sides, but the Reds showed even more flatness than usual, as if casually batting away the marauding attackers. Chalk it up to the loss of Terry Dunfield to injury, or Danny Califf to the sniffles, but Toronto just could not seem to find their way.
A chance from an unmarked Jacobson in the 30th minute barely sailed over Joe Bendik's goal, but the midfielder would make no mistake four minutes later, taking a header from Kenny Cooper off a Michel free kick 30 yards out. The clearance was botched, and Jacobson was allowed to slot home almost completely unchallenged. Once again, Russell was not on his mark, and once again TFC fell behind.
Smelling blood in the water, Dallas poured on the pressure for the rest of the half and well into the second, and if not for Bendik, Perez and company would have ran riot. The Panamanian would finally hit the scoresheet in the 59th minute, when the Brazilian Michel stripped John Bostock of the ball in the middle of the park, and slotted it to Perez, who coolly put it home to put the North Texans up by two. Usually, that would mean a deflated TFC trying desperately to play out the rest of the game, right? Not this time.
The introduction of Luis Silva at half by Ryan Nelsen did not shake the team out of its stupor as it did last week, so the honour would befall onto Justin Braun, who was playing in his first game in Red. The team was still short on ideas, and had little answer when the questions were being asked. Even when they were doing the asking, the Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez had all the answers; Silva's weak attempt in the 73rd was easily saved. But like a child praying for an exam miracle, the answer finally came.
A weak Hogan Ephraim cross into the box was monumentally messed up by Matt Hedges and Fernandez in the 85th minute, and in the scramble that ensued, even though Braun missed his attempted header, the ball bounced off his chest and over the line. And somehow, that woke up the Reds, and this time -- it would be the home side smelling the blood of a tiring Dallas side. The pessimistic fan would expect that said comeback could run out of metaphorical track before the cliff of full time, but somehow, that DeLorean would make it back to 1985, for once.
Darren O'Dea would be dragged down by Jacobson in the box off a Richard Eckersley free kick just a scant minute later, with referee Ismail Elfath waving off appeals for what looked to have been a clear penalty, with replays showing Jacobson was on the Irishman tighter than a static-charged snuggie. This wouldn't be Elfath's only error (i.e. turning down a free kick shout at the death after Reggie Lambe was literally barrelled into the ground), but in the midst of it all, Fabian Castillo would take the ball up unchallenged by the protesting TFC players, only to slot the insurance goal just wide -- a bullet usually fatal, but somehow today, dodged.
But the miracles didn't stop there: Russell, already in the dog house for his role in the past two games, somehow struck a golazo from about 25 yards out, off a cross from Braun to complete what just twenty minutes before had been thought impossible. Eckersley unfortunately picked up a knock earlier in that move (currently reported as a popped hamstring, but according to Nelsen, it's not) when he won a scrappy tackle to keep the move alive.
Dallas would come closest to a winner in stoppage, Castillo again able to weave through the defense in the third minute of stoppage, only to find Bendik to stop his advance. That would be the only solid chance for both sides in the added time, and in the end the spoils were shared, giving TFC its fifth point of the 2013 campaign.
The loss of Dunfield and Califf was definitely felt, the inexperienced defense almost falling prey to the Dallas arsenal. But somehow they kept it together, with Gale Agbossoumonde putting in a composed debut for the Reds. Darel Russell, despite the goal, will still face calls to be replaced by Ashtone Morgan, but with Eckersley's injury, will he get another chance? And as for Hogan Ephraim, what else can we say? Just one bad performance after another -- and only time will tell before they are given enough rope to seal their fate. Today they may have received a small reprieve by the result, and the team as a whole likely got a flattering result. But as long as they can keep snatching and grabbing, breaking hearts left and right, who are we to complain?
(Just as long as they fix the leaks, of course!)
* * *
WAKING THE RED'S GOLDEN TROPHIES/KICKS TO THE GROIN...
|Golden Trophy: Fans who stayed to the end
||Was treated to a spectacle to behold.|
|Kick to the Groin: Ismael Elfath
||That was a penalty, you silly man.
|Golden Trophy: Luis Silva
||The needed spark from the bench.|
|Kick to the Groin: Darel Russell||Four straight goals, four at faults.|
|Kick to the Groin: Hogan Ephraim
||Was terrible. Seriously terrible.
|Golden Trophy: Justin Braun
|Shots on Goal||9||12|
|Shots on Target||6||5|
|Passing Accuracy (%)||78||75|