Montreal 2 - 1 Toronto FC
The Prelude to Battle
Well, Toronto FC, fresh from their 6-2 defeat at the hands of Club Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League, look to gain some much-needed points on the road against Canadian arch-rivals, the Montreal Impact, at the Olympic Stadium. Having lost their last three MLS outings, and scoring only once goal, Toronto FC need a solid showing against an expansion Montreal side, if there is any hope for the first half of the season. Montreal, on the other hand, will be looking for their first ever league victory, and beating Toronto FC would be a dream start.
Aron Winter gets target forward Danny Koevermans back for this one, after missing out on the big Dutch striker against Santos Laguna due to suspension. Playing in a 4-3-3, Winter will hope the system finally starts clicking and goals start pouring for Toronto FC.
A midweek game followed by a road game in MLS may be detrimental to Toronto FC’s play, but we can’t take anything away from Montreal either, who also played on Wednesday. Both sides are about even in terms of form, with the two sitting bottom of the east with 0 points overall.
With over 23,000 projected, and a large travelling group expected from Toronto, the “401 Derby” looks to kick off with plenty of goals, dramatics and a much-needed win for both teams.
The Opening Forty-Five
Toronto FC started the match well, but it was evident within the first 15 minutes that Montreal would give them a tough test. The possession was already 61% in favour of the Impact. Still, Toronto FC found an early chance, when Nick Soolsma picked up the ball on the right, took on a couple Montreal defenders before cutting in and taking a shot, which went just wide on the 16-minute mark.
It wasn’t much longer before Montreal also made themselves heard, when Julian de Guzman and Terry Dunfield misplayed a pass, lost possession, before Lamar Neagle found Sinisa Ubiparapovic in the 17’, and, unmarked, slotted home an easy goal on the bottom right corner. Milos Kocic could do nothing to prevent the goal, and it was 1-0 Montreal.
In the 27’, Sanna Nyassi picked up the ball in midfield and went on a 40-yard sprint, passing Harden and Eckersley and taking a shot on net, however, Milos Kocic was sharp, and made a strong save. Toronto FC spent the next 10 or so minutes building up play, and on the 36-minute mark, they came close to scoring too; a cross from outside the box found the head of Terry Dunfield, who headed downwards and found an open Danny Koevermans, who just couldn’t get enough on it, before colliding with Montreal keeper Donovan Ricketts.
The collision left Koevermans battling a small injury, but he was up and at it soon after. Toronto FC headed to the locker room down 1-0, against a Montreal side that was still dominating the play, still maintaining a 60% possession figure and controlling the midfield well.
The Second Half
At the start of the second half, Toronto FC came out of the gates with about as much bite as the first, threatening in isolated instances but creating nothing of substance or continuity. For the first hour or so, it seemed Toronto FC just could not find the back of the net.
In the 65th minute, however, things took a turn for the worse, when Ty Harden watched the ball bounce tantalizingly in front of him, before Sanna Nyassi burst past him, leaving only Logan Emory to track back. Emory stuck a foot out and brought Nyassi down, which prompted a red card, but questions arose regarding contact with the ball – it looked as though Emory had gotten a piece of the ball but in the end, he was given his marching orders, and Toronto FC were down to 10 men.
The resulting free kick came close, with Nyassi placing a well-hit shot toward the top left corner, but Kocic was right on top of it, making the save.
It was at this point that TFC finally picked themselves up, playing better with the man disadvantage, and creating more offensive opportunities. The best chance in the match so far came in the 71st minute, when Ryan Johnson slipped a pass over to a right-leaning Danny Koevermans, who placed a pass across the defensive line for Nick Soolsma, which was almost hit across the line, before being cleared.
In the 81st minute, a Ryan Johnson shot was deflecting and fell kindly to Justin Mapp, who hit a long cross right at the foot of Andrew Wenger, who ran down the right flank and slotted the ball home, making it 2-0 for Montreal. Toronto responded with a goal of their own in the 88th minute when Reggie Lambe supplied Danny Koevermans with an easy header. That’s all the goals we’d see at Olympic Stadium, and Montreal walk away with three points, the final score: 2-1 for Montreal.
After the game, it was obvious that changes would be required – four straight losses in regular season competition was clearly not a good sign for Toronto FC, and Aron Winter addressed this issue accordingly.
“We have given away the game,” said Winter. “I think with the 10 men we were playing better than with the 11.”
“You can make mistakes but what I didn’t like was the way we reacted, how we started. It’s not good,” he continued.
When asked how he can turn things around, Winter wasn’t holding back, making it very clear that changes would be made to the lineup. He also said he was not concerned about his job security, saying that he is still in the process of building his team.
Logan Emory, who will be unavailable for the next game, spoke about the incident he found himself involved in, and the red card he picked up, claiming he got the ball.
He also addressed the numerous goals against,
“Through the run of play, nobody is really breaking us down,” said Emory. “It’s all mistakes we’re making.”
Richard Eckersley made his position very clear about the result,
“This was a winnable game,” he said. “We’ve got better personnel than them, but I think it’s a case of getting back on the training field and starting again.”
The Final Word: Four in a row enough to start panicking?
AFour games have now gone by, and Toronto FC have scored twice, conceded nine times, and have collected 0 points in total. They now sit dead last in the league, have given Montreal their very first win in MLS, have no scored a go-ahead goal in 2012, and are clearly wounded.
Is this the point in the season that Toronto FC look back on at the end of 2012 and see the breakdown?
To a degree, Toronto FC have put themselves in uncharted waters in terms of a playoff place. It’s true that there is still a full 30 games left in the season, more than enough required to make it into the post-season. At the same time, no team has ever made the playoffs with a start this poor, and the only other 4-game losing streak at the beginning of the season comes from Toronto FC themselves in 2007.
The fundamental defensive mindset is not there, and Toronto FC are making too many mistakes in the backline – each goal scored against Toronto FC thus far could have been easily preventable, and, if not for their own errors, they would not have happened in the first place.
Yet for all the talk of defensive mistakes, Toronto FC are not scoring goals either. Clearly, Aron Winter will need to address his personnel choices for the upcoming Chivas USA match on the 14th, but really, who is there on the bench? Luis Silva, Eric Avila and Julian de Guzman would be a more preferable midfield than Dunfield-De Guzman-Johnson, provided that they work as a unit and not as individual pieces.
Benching Joao Plata or Ryan Johnson is probably a smart move too, as the two wingers keep getting into each other’s zones, effectively putting two men in one position and leaving a gap in the midfield. In the end, Toronto FC haven’t really changed much over the offseason, instead hoping to ride on the form of the end of last season – that hasn’t happened, and now, Toronto FC’s deficiencies are apparent for other teams to expose.
Doneil Henry, Logan Emory and Richard Eckersley have done well; Ashtone Morgan too, deserves some credit, although he must be sharper defensively. Adrian Cann is being touted as a solution but he needs at least another six weeks to even come close to match fitness. Winter says he has the resources but further help is probably required. Time will tell.
6 De Guzman
Substitutions: Doneil Henry in for Richard Eckersley (51); Luis Silva in for Joao Plata (51); Reggie Lambe in for Nick Soolsma (78).