After eight MLS matches without a defeat, Toronto FC have finally been beaten. There is not much competition for the Reds’ most disappointing loss of the season so far, but their 3-0 reverse at the hands of the New England Revolution was it.
Benjamin Angoua gave the Revs the lead from a drilled Lee Nguyen corner in a first half full of chances that were otherwise not taken. Toronto had good looks of their own, with Victor Vazquez heading just over from a Raheem Edwards cross and Justin Morrow hitting the post from close range, but they were regularly exposed at the back.
Diego Fagundez was influential on the New England left wing and would have orchestrated a second with a superb through ball that Kelyn Rowe converted had the assistant referee not incorrectly flagged for offside. It mattered not, as the home side’s quick, varied attacking play continued after the break.
Fagundez made it 2-0 in the 66th minute by firing past Alex Bono from 18 yards after New England had caught Toronto on the break, and substitute Juan Agudelo made sure of the points by nodding in from close range with five minutes to play. Fagundez was involved again, hitting the crossbar at the end of a swift counter-attack.
1. A defensive mess: Nguyen had five key passes, Fagundez three and Rowe four as well as four shots. This was comfortably the Reds’ poorest outing of the season at the back and a combination of tactical and personnel problems contributed to their failure to shut down New England’s key men.
Eriq Zavaleta, Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga were all guilty of mistimed challenges, slow reads and haphazard distribution, but we know they are all better than this and it’s hard not to point the finger at the system as a result. Much like Ottawa did to good effect in the first half hour on Wednesday, the Revolution left one man up front and hung a couple of attacking midfielders behind him to exploit the space in front of the defence. The runs of Rowe from a deeper position gave them an added threat.
2. Vanney misses the mark: Greg Vanney has a tremendous group of players at his disposal, but he has given them an edge this year with his ability to make in-game adjustments that turn the tide of a match. Everyone has an off day every once in a while, though, and on this occasion he was slow to react and ineffective when he did.
It was clear long before half-time that TFC were seriously vulnerable at the back, and the eventual switch to a back four was the right move. Bringing on Jonathan Osorio in a strange inside-right position was a bizarre way to do it, though, and the goal that followed the sub was a calamity of errors; both full-backs bombed upfield, Benoit Cheyrou - toiling badly by this point - turned the ball over and Moor and Mavinga were left completely exposed.
3. It was coming: Toronto have played some very good football over the past few weeks and enjoyed a superb run, but I’m not quite prepared to dub them a 70-point team. That was the pace they were playing at going into this match, and it was never likely to last. It’s a shame the Reds go into the international break on this defeat and do not have a chance to respond quickly, but the rest is well earned and much needed.