Soccer games are usually described as "a game of two halves", however today's match between Toronto FC and the Fire was a game of thirds. Starting and finishing the match well was enough for the Fire to escape with a 3-2 victory over the visiting Toronto. TFC controlled the middle part of the match, but let it get away shortly after taking control.
Many will consider the defining point of this match to be Jeff Larentowicz' winning goal, which came off a free kick resulting from a second yellow card to Warren Creavalle: putting Toronto down a goal and a man in a matter of minutes.
However, the true turning point of this match was Toronto conceding the lead just two minutes after taking it in the 54th minute. It was the second straight week where Toronto conceded just minutes after scoring a crucial goal. They never had momentum again in the match.
It was Shaun Maloney who scored that goal, his first in Major League Soccer. In that regard it was a day of firsts, as Joevin Jones, Benoit Cheyrou and Sebastian Giovinco all scored their first goals in the league. If today's performances are any indication, it could be the first of many for all four.
Even in the loss Giovinco was the best player on the field as he is quickly becoming more and more comfortable pulling strings in the Toronto midfield. His goal wasn't anything spectacular, but the buildup was top quality. His setup of Cheyrou's goal was exceptional, as was the finish.
Toronto's midfield in general was fairly dominant in this match against a team who really didn't have much substance in the midfield. The 17 pass set up of Giovinco's goal was the highlight of plenty of classy moves made in combination between Cheyrou, Jonathan Osorio, Giovinco and Michael Bradley.
The problem came when the ball got behind that midfield, as it was always apt to do considering the injuries to the club's backline. Even without the yellow card Creavalle had yet another poor performance as he was out of position and beaten on multiple occasions. Now that he is suspended hopefully Mark Bloom can reclaim his rightful spot at right back.
Ashtone Morgan was the lone positive on the backline, as the left back had his best performance in some time with Toronto. On several occasions he was forced to cover people in other areas of defence, and did well going forward as well. He was able to get an assist on Giovinco's goal.
Thankfully, Toronto now have a second bye week. If the last one seemed like a bit of a momentum killer, this time the team can certainly use it as they try to get healthy. Having Steven Caldwell and Damien Perquis back in the lineup will at least in part help the team to improve the horrid defending.
It will also give Toronto a chance to work on team defending which has also been lacking. While it is easy to blame the defenders for every problem that takes place in Toronto's third, it's also unfair. At least two goals today, and several others throughout the season, having been the result of players not tracking back. Between Cheyrou and Bradley Toronto is supposed to have a solid defensive midfield, but it hasn't materialized yet.
Midway through their season opening roadtrip Toronto have failed to impress, and with FC Dallas, Orlando and Philadelphia on the horizon TFC are far from behind the eight ball yet, but the eight ball is starting to move.