On a cold and blustery late March afternoon, the San Jose Earthquakes saw off Toronto FC in a one sided affair at BMO field.
The week didn’t start well for TFC with the news coming through that their most important defensive asset (Frings) would be sidelined for several weeks with a hamstring injury suffered in the away loss to Seattle. For the defensively challenged Canadian side, this is a big blow. Adding to their misery, first team goalkeeper Stefan Frei – often the only thing keeping Toronto from embarrassing defeats over the past three years – suffered a broken leg in training on Friday.
With Frei not expected back until June at the earliest, Milan Kocic started for Toronto in front of a young and inexperienced defensive line. That inexperience showed early. Inside ten minutes, former Red Sam Cronin launched a fine free kick into Toronto’s penalty area. The defense failed to deal with it, leaving Chris Wondolowski with an easy header to open the scoring.
Despite continuing wayward play at the back, Toronto was able to create some chances through the remainder of the first half. Academy grad Ashtone Morgan and Joao Plata in particular found space to work with along the left hand side of the pitch. Sadly for TFC, the quality of the crosses and finish were simply not good enough. Time and again good periods of possession were wasted with errant passes late or chances directly in front of goal not taken. At the break, Toronto enjoyed a 62% possession rate, yet looked to have been outplayed by some margin.
Ten minutes into the second half San Jose ended any hope of a home win. Plata slipped during an attacking run down the left side, leaving Beitashour to run free at the Toronto defense. Aceval badly misplayed the attack. TFC might have recovered from this given the bad cross played by Martin Chavez, but poor positioning cost them again as Salinas was allowed space and time to corral the errant ball, then drove it past Kocic (who was partially screened by the hard trying Eckersley).
Throughout the game, TFC’s defense was unable to cope with the pace or power of Stephen Lenhart or Wondolowski up front. Only a couple of questionable offside calls kept this contest anything like respectable. In the 68th minute, Wondolowski potted his second of the day despite fumbling the first touch. In the final 20 minutes he would miss two excellent opportunities to make it a hat trick, while Lenhart also was unlucky in front of the net late.
The stands (barely more than half full at kickoff) were all but deserted in the final ten minutes of this one. No doubt some of the empty seats were paid for (the announced crowd was 20,070, but a quick visual tally showed easily 5-6,000 empty seats – probably more), but it is becoming harder and harder to believe the MLSE (club owner) party line about a waiting list of ‘thousands’. Plainly there are tickets to be had, and given Toronto’s poor performances there is little wonder why.
A solid result for San Jose, then, after a 1-0 win over New England and a loss to Houston to open the season. For Toronto, there is much work to be done after two heavy defeats.
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