First, a positive: that is the last Toronto FC will see of Real Salt Lake in 2014, unless they meet in the playoffs. It may also be the only positive on a night where the visiting Reds were completely outclassed by a dominant RSL side. From start to finish the home side displayed their quality: a member of the MLS old guard teaching its younger colleague a lesson.
With the 3-0 win Salt Lake won the battle of the Alvaros, apparently the accent on the "A" makes all the difference as Saborio had a pair of goals while Rey played his worst game of the season. Luis Gil had the other goal for RSL on a superb passing play that completely exposed Toronto's backline.
The story stayed the same for Toronto in terms of possession, although the 39.5% they recorded is the highest they have had all season. They were able to get away with it in their first couple of outings, but it was painfully obvious on this day.
TFC has to look no further than their own city and the NHL's Maple Leafs for a horror story in this regard. The Leafs were outshot immensely by opposition throughout the season, but were able to win against the odds. It finally caught up to them recently, and it appears to have cost them a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Toronto's possession issue is similar: they may be getting away with it now but it must be resolved before it shoots them in the foot. Ryan Nelson downplayed its importance in his press conference last week at BMO, sounding painfully similar to Leaf's Coach Randy Carlyle and his "a win is a win" mentality.
The depth of this team comes ever more into question when it comes to this, as Jackson and Jonathan Osorio were greatly missed in the midfield. Without them Toronto were barely able to hold any sort of possession, and seemed to rely upon long balls to Defoe and Gilberto.
Bradley was once again worth the price of admission in the midfield, and was Toronto's best player in the loss. Anything the club did offensively was as a result of his continually impressive play. But even he had his weakest outing as a Red, being constantly battled by US Men's National Team teammate Kyle Bekkerman.
Up front Jermain Defoe was once again quality, but was unable to finish any of the chances created for or by him. His substitution in the 62nd minute had nothing to do with his play and was a result of a minor injury. Gilberto, on the other hand, had a very rough outing as he failed to make any sort of impact. After last week's bright start it appears he will still need plenty of adjustment before he reaches full form in MLS.
The Real Salt Lake backline, Chris Schuler especially, gave Toronto almost nothing on the attacking side. The introduction of Dwayne De Rosario once again yielded very little, which is concerning going forward. The team is relying on him to be an offensive spark late in games.
But on this night it is questions about the backline and not the attack that will emerge. In the first two games they had been dominant, but this was quite the opposite. Javier Morales exposed the backline consistently, playing a huge role in all three RSL goals. With all of the quality players on the Rio Tinto pitch he was clearly the man of the match.
Doneil Henry, excellent in his first two matches, especially against DC United, has surely resurfaced concerns about his play. He committed one of the reckless fouls for which he is consistently criticized to give Saborio the 11th minute penalty with which he gave RSL the early 1-0 lead. He was also booked later in the half and flirted dangerously with being sent off throughout.
Henry definitely doesn't deserve all of the defensive criticism. Steven Caldwell was also booked for a nasty tackle in the first half. Bradley Orr was also fairly weak, and was cleanly beat by Saborio en route to the third RSL goal. It seemed like everyone on the backline was to blame for the spectacularly executed Luis Gil goal.
Toronto had to lose eventually, it was simply fact, though this first one will certainly sting the team. But it is how they respond to this first blow that will be a crucial early indicator of whether or not this team will succeed.