A dreadfully boring 1-0 home loss in which the opposition generated little to nothing before scoring a goal late in the match is nothing new for Toronto FC. But on this day it somehow was more disheartening than usual. Having seen TFC give a fantastic performance in a 2-0 away victory against Columbus, which was the highlight of their year, just a week prior, the contrast was immense.
Edson Buddle had the only goal for the visitors in front of a docile home crowd that had very little to cheer about during the match. The way the goal developed, including Dillon Powers' effective trot through the Toronto backline, seemed a lot like the defensive efforts of years before. It was unquestionably the weakest goal Toronto has allowed so far this season.
After a game last week in which Toronto was praised for their depth, a week and no Michael Bradley later and all of that has once again been brought into question. The importance of Bradley was clear this game, and Toronto appeared quiet without him running around the field challenging opponents.
A Bradley-less midfield was the most glaring deficiency in this match. Kyle Bekker once again put forth a very good game in the midfield, playing well in possession. He hit the post of two different dead ball occasions. But without Alvaro Rey on the wing, and Michael Bradley in the middle, the signature counter attack that has led to Toronto's success so far was non-existent.
Issey Nakajima-Farran had a decent match on the wing, showing flashes of quality. But in terms of pace and ability to start the counter attack he was not nearly as effective as Rey. Jeremy Hall offered very little going forward, but was serviceable defensively. Jackson was the bright spot in the midfield, and was the most consistent threat for Toronto.
Up front, Gilberto continues to appear questionable. It appears now that the 25 goals he promised as a member of TFC are out of reach. Gilberto is a decent MLS striker, and has played well alongside Defoe in the past. But while Toronto's two other DP signings have thrived he has been the glaring exception.
Without Defoe beside him Gilberto has looked questionable, his ability to create his own chances has been questionable so far. Even De Rosario was clearly better in terms of creating opportunities.
Defensively, minus the lapse late in the match, Toronto looked solid once again. Caldwell was very good in his return to the lineup, despite yet another booking for a hand ball. Bradley Orr was one of the few depth players who played well on this day, and looks like he could be another option at centreback.
One can hope that Toronto will have a few more players at their disposal come next match against FC Dallas. But if not, this may be a tough stretch of matches for the club. It was painfully obvious that this current pool lacked the offensive creativity required to achieve results. Without Bradley this group seems to fall apart very quickly.
It doesn't exactly bode well for the World Cup stretch.