Toronto FC will leave Kansas City empty handed, but they can keep their heads high. Tonight's 1-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City was their first of the season. But their performance against the league's only undefeated team was impressive for a number of reasons.
For one, the only goal of the game came off of Sporting KC's lone chance of the evening. Brad Davis would capitalize for his first goal as a member of SKC. The goal would come after 70 minutes of Toronto holding on to what would have been a massive draw for the club.
It was a chance that Davis and SKC never should have gotten, anyway. The goal came off what appeared to be foul on Justin Morrow, who was shoved by Davis. Toronto FC failed to stop Davis afterwards, but it is pretty hard to blame them. It was the second straight week that a questionable call has cost TFC, and certainly will make the loss harder to swallow.
The call was the culmination of a bizarre night for referee Baldomero Toledo, who has become somewhat infamous in the MLS community. However, it was the fact that Toledo, usually known for being card happy, let a heck of a lot go throughout the match for both sides. That is until the 84th minute, when he gave Roger Espinoza a rather undeserved red card.
Overall he called a fairly solid game, until the dubious call on the Sporting Kansas City goal. Normally it wouldn't have stood out this much, but considering the fact that it provided the only leak in an airtight Toronto backline it was a difference maker.
For 70 minutes in the match the Toronto backline stood surprisingly strong. Toronto completely smothered one of the best sides in Major League Soccer, and if nothing else they can take that out of tonight's game. Damien Perquis has had a strong start to the season, but this was undoubtedly his best performance. Beside him Josh Williams was solid, while Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow gave up almost nothing out wide.
When it was revealed before the game that Drew Moor, the backline general of the side, would miss the game due to illness most felt that the backline would revert to last year's disaster. That was not the case at all, which shows both the team's defensive depth and the effectiveness of their new tactical strategy.
Even the glaring issue in the club's game so far, their ability on the ball, looked significantly better tonight. A big part of that was Michael Bradley who had a very good game in the midfield. Toronto were moving the ball well and with plenty of confidence, which led to a number of scoring chances.
The offense still doesn't look complete, but help should be on the way after the international break. Jozy Altidore looked good in his first minutes of the season coming off the bench, and instantly made the club significantly harder to defend.
Mo Babouli also looked good in his MLS debut, coming off the bench and instantly standing out. Sure, he was a bit too bold on the ball sometimes, but he tried to be a difference maker and almost was. That's what an attacking substitution is supposed to do: try something difference and see if he can influence the result in the process.
Today he couldn't, but just like the club his play points to a promising times ahead. If Toronto continue to put in performances like this on the road they are going to get results, days like today will be the outlier.