If there's anything Toronto FC has done particularly well in its nine-and-a-half seasons of MLS existence, it is finding new and creative ways to lose matches. If tragedy is their historical art form, a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes tonight at Avaya Stadium might be their piece de resistance.
The opening act saw Toronto fall behind early on a goal from ex-TFC forward Quincy Amarikwa, only to regain hope when Anibal Godoy was given a questionable red card. Toronto took instant advantage, finding an equaliser through Justin Morrow. That advantage doubled when Alberto Quintero was also sent off for a very similar tackle.
Under those circumstances even a draw tonight would have been disappointing, a loss is nothing short of a disaster. Up two men, Toronto FC allowed Simon Dawkins to walk through their backline before blasting a shot that somehow beat Alex Bono. With that one play, a Toronto team that had previously looked so sure of itself descended into chaos.
Already seemingly out of offensive ideas, Dawkins' goal added an element of panic to the Toronto FC attack. As if stuck in a trance, they descended into an unsavoury rinse and repeat routine: find Tsubasa Endoh out wide and hope his crosses turned into something. None of the Hail Mary passes found a receiver.
The only variation on this attacking plan was when Sebastian Giovinco tried to do it all himself. His one-man travelling show hasn't been as well received lately, however, and the results were the same: his shots were all blocked, missed the net or were easily handled by David Bingham.
The sad thing is that it is almost hard to blame him, as nobody on the team seemed to have any better ideas. Toronto clearly proved once again that they cannot break down opposition who sit behind the ball and defend, a problem that stretches back to last season.
A number of Toronto's attacks could have used a calming presence, but that became difficult after Toronto allowed the momentum-killing second goal. In what was easily the worst goal the club has allowed all season, Dawkins was allowed to walk into a good area, before unleashing a shot that inexplicably fooled Bono in net. The young American has done well in his first senior level games for Toronto FC, but this goal may have been bad enough to lose him the net.
Toronto seemed to lose their collective heads after the goal was scored, a trend which extended onto the bench. For whatever reason, Vanney decided to take two attacking players, Jordan Hamilton and Jonathan Osorio, off of the pitch for the more defensive Marky Delgado and Nick Hagglund. Jozy Altidore was on the bench but wasn't risked.
While Toronto FC deserves to be berated after this match for not having the concentration to get the job done, the San Jose Earthquakes deserve equal praise for how headstrong they were tonight. This was a herculean performance tonight from the home side, who had the odds unfairly stacked against them. For them. this is the kind of game that can turn around a season.
Unfortunately, the same can be said for Toronto FC, but in the other direction. This match invited a lot of the club's demons into the light and they are going to cause problems until dealt with. Does the team have an offensive plan? What's wrong with Giovinco? Can this team survive the injury crisis?
Toronto FC has an incredibly important stretch coming up with four straight home games, and they cannot allow a result like this to bleed over. So far, tonight has only caused three points worth of damage, and the wound needs to be closed as soon as possible.
The curtains are far from being closed on Toronto FC's season, and after all, tonight was only one game. Many actors are still waiting to play their part as injuries caused them to miss their latest scenes, and left Toronto with a small cast. But tonight they deserve all of the criticism that the audience throws their way. It was a lame performance.