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Same old Story: Toronto FC lose to Real Salt Lake

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A pair of blown calls, a frantic finish, and an all-too-familiar feeling for TFC fans. Despite controlling the game for several stretches, TFC couldn't get any points at Rio Tinto.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

It's a good thing Michael Bradley is not with Toronto FC this weekend. In a situation eerily similar to last season's famous Gilberto no-goal call by Dave Gantar, the same no-goal that sparked the "He's just not good enough" comment that earned him a fine from MLS, Nick Hagglund had a seemingly perfect set-piece header called back for a mystery foul by Hilario Grajeda. The non-goal didn't ultimately change the game as drastically as the Morrow red card at Columbus, but it certainly will hold most of the attention.

The game started positively for the Reds. The Centre Back pairing of Nick Hagglund and Clement Simonin sprayed long ball after long ball up towards Luke Moore and Robbie Findley, creating a few half chances and pinning RSL in their own end for good stretches of the first half. As RSL settled the game, they began to press the inexperienced TFC backline. In the 38th minute, Javier Morales recycled a ball into the box that found Luke Mulholland unmarked at the back post. A few moments before, however, play should have been whistled dead as Devon Sandoval received the ball in an offside position. Not a lot of fuss was made, but the evidence is pretty clear. A miss for referee Hilario Grajeda and his officiating crew.

With 5 regular starters out, there were definitely some positives in this game. The non-goal by Hagglund shows he can continue to be a threat on set pieces, with several people on twitter predicting that he and Giovinco would connect on a set piece.

When the goal eventually came the pace of the game was already so high that all TFC fans could do was hold on to their hats. Jackson and Dike combined well and the Brazilian poked home well. TFC got caught in the euphoria though, and some seriously suspicious marking by Hagglund, Simonin, and Morgan saw Jordan Allen net his first MLS goal.

The final result may not be what TFC deserved, but there are still problems that need solving. In defense, balls into the box aren't dealt with well, and the fullbacks are often stranded up high in transition. However, in a rare turn, lets talk about some positives here.

With 5 regular starters out, against a traditionally difficult opponent and on the road, TFC came pretty close to getting a good result. Simonin was certainly not sensational, but had a quietly positive debut. Hagglund's attack on set pieces is valuable and missing when Perquis and Caldwell start in the centre of defense, and although both were culpable on the Allen goal, they had a largely positive game. Luke Moore didn't look out of place, neither did Collen Warner. Morgan had some good plays on both sides of the ball, and was certainly better than when he played for TFC II last week.

All of that comes with a basket-full of buts - But the long ball isn't the way to create opportunities, but the fullbacks can't get caught stranded upfield, but we can't waste chances to get the ball into the box, and when we get it in the box we need to finish. But, but, but. Vanney and Co. can blame absences and refereeing all they want - and once more they may feel justified in doing so - but TFC looked like they were out of ideas in attack right from the start, defended poorly on several plays, and let their guard down late in the game.
Creavalle's tendency to cut toward the middle as a fullback left Garcia alone to run the flank, with Luke Moore covering the right back spot on a number of occasions.

If at all possible, try to see the positives - with our first choice backline entirely gone, we managed to hold RSL to 2 at home - something we haven't done in 3 years. Past seasons aren't exactly a high bar to reach for, but moving forward, we can expect a little more from the Reds.