It turns out that Felipe was the grim reaper of Toronto FC's season. In June, the Brazilian scored in extra time to end the club's hopes of claiming the Canadian Championship. Today, he broke their hearts again with a late first half goal that meant mathematical elimination from that promised playoff berth. In the grand scheme of things neither goal really eliminated Toronto, but both destroyed any remaining hope.
A 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact is far from the worst result in the club's history, but considering the context it felt like it was up there. First off there were the playoff promises officially broken, at home. Then there was the recent run of play, three straight away losses to effectively eliminate the team before they could again touch home soil. Finally there was the fact that Montreal are the worst team in the league, and spent the last part of the match a man down.
This match felt a lot like last year's season finale, minus the fact that the roles were reversed. This time it was Toronto who had playoff aspirations, and Montreal who brought them to their lowest point of the year. This time it wasn't the final match of the season, but it might as well have been for two clubs who will be looking to turn around their fortunes next year.
As the season wares down, TFC seem to be a team who have completely run out of ideas offensively. For a little while under Greg Vanney, set pieces were able to make the difference and get the team the goals they needed, albeit against bad defensive teams. From open play the team only seemed able to play the hope and get lucky card: put the ball somewhere in the vicinity of the net and hope that somehow it ends up on the scoreboard.
This was the case again versus the Impact, and conveyed a team without confidence. Normally when the opposition, especially an opposition as lowly as Montreal, goes down to 10 men, an opponent is able to hold the ball and take advantage of the newfound holes created by this absence. Instead, this seemed to make Toronto's game even more chaotic: more wild balls played forward and an even bigger lack of chemistry between opponents.
To be fair, a big part of that chaos was created from off the ball incidents. The referee lost complete control of the match in the late going as two frustrated teams appeared perfectly content to take out their issues on each other. De Rosario ninja kicked Hassoun Camara in the back. Jackson did some sort of WWE body slam on Eric Miller. Heath Pearce got sent off for, well, nobody is really sure.
The highlight in all of this, as it has been far too much lately, was Joe Bendik. With Felipe on the pitch trying to waste time to preserve a draw that Montreal clearly felt was a good result for them, Bendik took exception. He came over, picked up Felipe in both arms like a child, and raised him to his feet. It may have earned Bendik a yellow card, but it likely earned him a lot more than that in terms of fan appreciation.
Bendik also got the better of Felipe earlier in the second half, when made a stunning stop on an effort from outside of the box. If there is anyone who deserves consistent credit for his play this season it has been Toronto's keeper. He isn't the best keeper in the league, and certainly has his faults. He needs to improve his backline organization, as well as his distribution. But on the other hand, he brings a pure shot stopping ability that makes up for his shortcomings.
He may never get time to address those shortcomings though, he spends far too much time making up for everyone else's. Once again he was forced to bail out a defence that had little to no support from the midfield. Considering they were doing very little going forward, it was shocking how little Warren Creavalle, Jonathan Osorio, Jackson and Collen Warner got back to help their defence.
Hopefully, BMO Field never has to witness a midfield with that combination of names ever again. In fact, this might be the last time BMO witnesses more than a few of its players, at least in a TFC kit. He was injured and didn't play, but it's pretty clear Jermain Defoe no longer has a place on this team. Rumours this week also seem to indicate Doneil Henry and Gilberto might not be here much longer.
In the end, Toronto FC had done too much self-damage to save their demise, even if a small opening to do so was presented to them. Now, officially, they can start focusing on fixing a couple of the lingering issues that caused this letdown.