In a year when the Eastern Conference has owned its Western Conference counterparts in intra-conference player, Real Salt Lake has done its part to try and stem the imbalance.
After wins against New England and Columbus, RSL has added Toronto FC to its list of Eastern Conference conquests with its 2-1 victory on Monday. The victory increased Real Salt Lake’s hold on first place in the West to four points (though Houston has two games in hand) and kept RSL unbeaten at Rice-Eccles Stadium this year (6-0-5).
Toronto’s offensive struggles continued as TFC failed once again to receive production from the forward position. With Chad Barrett on the way, and an international forward expected to be signed soon, Toronto is counting the seconds until some new strikers can take the field and awaken a badly slumping offense.
SBI correspondents Scott McCallister and Duane Rollins watched Monday night’s match and gave us their views on the action.
A potentially sweet farewell to Rice-Eccles Stadium
By SCOTT McALLISTER
After the game on Monday I heard that Toronto’s head coach John Carver felt like a recording because his team kept making the same mistakes. I feel the same way about the success that Real Salt Lake have had over the last several games – especially at home.
It’s the same equation that produces results nearly every time. The strength has come from the spine. A strong Jamison Olave in the center of defense coupled with the possession of Javier Morales at the center of midfield have been to two pillars that have raised the play RSL all year. Throwing Kenny Cutler into the first XI didn’t hurt anything either, as he was his consistently solid self for the first 45.
Whether Robbie Findley’s luck was bad in the first half, or he was lacking sharpness, it was imperative that he net a goal as soon as possible after hitting the post from inside the six. Screw ups like that can mess with your head and your confidence, thus it was a relief that Findley beat out both TFC defenders to sweep up the winning goal in the last few minutes.
Chris Wingert continues to impress when he pushes into the attack. Have I said this before? Am I a recording? It seems that he is becoming a very real threat with his service from the flanks. Not only was his cross into Olave for the game’s first goal precisely placed, but he was also the one who picked out Findley in the first half when the striker hit the smallest target possible – the post – rather than the large area of netting in front of him.
While at the game I felt that the yellow card shown to Olave for his foul on Amado Guevara – which setup the free kick that tied the game for Toronto – was soft. It wasn’t until I saw the replay later that I noticed Olave reach out for Guevara’s leg after getting completely beaten by the Honduran. I don’t think Olave really made much contact, but referees generally don’t like players reaching out like that. And players like Guevara are going to seize any opportunity for a set piece in that area of the field. Guevara’s ease of falling helped TFC get back into the game – if only for three minutes – and it helped Houston as Olave will be serving a one game suspension for a accumulated cautions when Salt Lake play their next league match in a couple of weeks.
It was a bitter sweet moment leaving Rice-Eccles Stadium. While I made my way out to my car the realization that this could be my last game at RES, as there is a possibility that I could be missing the one August home game against Colorado and the one September home game against Chivas. Neither dates are for sure, but if my schedule unfolds as I predict my next RSL match may be at Real Salt Lake Stadium in Sandy.
TFC looks plain lost without Dichio
By DUANE ROLLINS
Most fans of MLS know that the Toronto faithful sing for Danny Dichio at the 23:13 mark of every game. It marks the exact moment in the game when Dichio scored the "seat cushion goal," Toronto’s first marker in MLS history.
Since that day, at each and every game, Reds fans have belted out Dichio’s name to the beat of ’80s pop sensations Men Without Hats (Good ole’ Canadian boys, it should be noted).
It’s a hero worship that baffles many outside of Toronto. Our Danny is neither swift of foot nor particularly creative on the ball. Watching him on the pitch he comes off a bit lumbering–it’s like a tall guy from your pub league snuck onto the field while no one was looking.
Except for one small detail. Dichio is good. Easily Toronto’s most important player, even with the addition of stars like Laurent Robert and Amado Guevara.
Dichio has started 25 games for TFC. He has 11 goals on just 34 shots. He’s added another three assists, meaning that he produces a goal about every other game (although you can find strikers in this league that have more impressive stats, none likely played on a team as anemic as TFC in 2007. Dichio literally got no service after Ronnie O’Brien went down with injury last June).
Additionally Dichio has been fouled 67 times while on the pitch.
If the objective argument doesn’t work for you consider the subjective. Not only has Dichio scored every important goal in Toronto’s short history (his season capper against New England in injury time was TV Movie of the Week stuff), but more tellingly Toronto has yet to show that it can win without him. It was when he went down with injury last year that the 824-min scoreless streak started in earnest. And this year, after he was lost to a concussion on July 1, TFC started to struggle again. In the seven games Toronto has played since his injury they have yet to win. The record during that time is a dismal 0-4-3 with just six goals scored. They failed to beat USL teams on two occasions.
This team is lost without its big man up front.
Monday night in Salt Lake was a perfect example. Time after time Toronto would charge down the wing only to throw a hopeless ball into the box towards physically outmatched strikers. Without the Dichio option in the middle, Toronto seems reluctant to play beyond five yards from the touchline. It’s a habit it will need to break soon, but one that seems difficult without big number 9.
To that end, manager Mo Johnston is claiming that he is hot in pursuit of a "big name striker." Reports suggest that Johnston takes that to mean "Manchester City reject who doesn’t seem to be able to make up his mind about where he wants to play football next year."Regardless, the Reds need something soon. With playoff hopes disappearing before their eyes Toronto can no longer wait for its hero to rescue it. No matter how loud the fans sing his song at 23:13.