It looks to be a long season folks. Although I didn't want to believe it with the roster of players Mo had assembled prior to the season , Toronto FC looks every bit an expansion team at the moment. We have to be realistic and patient. This is a collection of players definitely not on the same page with each other just yet. It can only get better.
New England is as good as it gets in MLS. They are a talented and very deep side. They did all the little things right on Saturday. They didn't provide Toronto with an inch of room in their final third, put intense pressure on the TFC players with the ball, forcing turnovers, and created and finished chances offensively. They exploited from the flanks and capitalized. Speedy Khano Smith had his way with an overwhelmed Miguel Canizalez all night, and created the first goal. Steve Ralston toyed with Andy Welsh on the other flank leading to the second and fourth goals. New England attacked in numbers easily exploiting the huge gaps between the back three.
Although you can't blame the Toronto back line entirely, as they had to respond to the constant giveaways from their midfield and forwards, the three man back line was spread thin all night. It was obvious New England had Toronto figured out from the get go. They were simply overwhelmed and not capable of handling the intense pressure. I felt Andy Boyens especially had a terrible night. He let his man get behind him twice leading to goals. First, he lost sight of Twellman (of all people), on the second goal, and then needed a Rugby style tackle to make up for poor marking, that resulted in the penalty. Boyens also gave away the ball 3 or 4 times on routine clearances in his own half, leading to really good scoring opportunities.
As for the fitness concerns, this is the one area the Toronto FC coaches most take responsibility for. Conditioning and fitness moreover is the one area that an expansion team should have got right from the start. The fitness concerns work the same on both sides of the field. Toronto spent as much time in pre-season as everyone else. Besides, Toronto does have an advantage in that several players have recently returned from Europe. Like Toronto, most other teams, including New England, are also recovering from key injuries, so that too isn't much of an excuse in this regard.
Andy Welsh's man marking has much to be desired. Steve Ralston easily ran by him leading to the first goal, while a soft attempt at chasing and defending off of a throw in, led to the third goal. A blatant Welsh giveaway not 5 minutes into the match set the tone for the rest of the game. The giveaway resulted in a New England goal that was called back for offside. He gave away the ball in a similar fashion on several occasions, much too easily.
Lethargic play by Edson Buddle can be linked to at least two goals. Buddle did not react to a descent looking pass from Miguel Canizalez in the New England end, that led to a turnover - nor did he attempt to track back on the same play. New England easily capitalized on the subsequent rush that followed. On the second goal, he played a terrible ball in the attacking half, that was easily intercepted. A long Steve Ralston rush was then completed with a perfect cross to Twellman who easily converted.
For all his promise and potential Paulo Nagamura , simply gives the ball away too easily. There were easily two or three really good build ups that ended with a poor aimless pass by the Brazilian.
I was surprised Mo did not respond to the obvious problems earlier on. I'm not saying a radical change, but a couple of subtle adjustments in order to change the flow of the match may have helped. It was obvious to most that Toronto needed someone with more pace to mark Smith. And Boyens looked terribly nervous and overwhelmed from the start.
On the bright side:
Carl Robinson is a classy and smart player. He looks to be a step or two ahead of everyone else when it comes to making decision with the ball. He must be frustrated by the quality around him. He looks to be able to pick out a player at will, unfortunately, with so little running off the ball, options just aren't available to him. Still, Robinson was a bit soft defending on occasion, and was guilty of giving the ball away a couple of times. I look forward to watching him live.
Considering his team let in 4 goals, I felt Marco Reda still looked good. Nice to see him play the full 90 minutes. Alecko Eskandarian worked very hard tracking back for the ball, and created a couple of chances. Conor Casey does a good job holding the ball up, and adds another dimension up top. He looks to be a classy player. Although Richard Mulrooney struggled with Khano Smith as well, he showed some positive play on the attack, as he was involved in a couple of good sequences with Robinson, Nagamura, and Canizalez.
On to Arrowhead Stadium and the new look Kansas City Wizards.