Photo By Nick Turchiaro/ISIPhotos.com
By: KURTIS LARSON
Playing a man up for nearly a half-hour against an already flat and sluggish Toronto side, Kansas City looked all but assured to take three points and break TFC's home unbeaten run Saturday at BMO Field. To the surprise of many however, Kansas City continued to sit back in a defensive set-up pushing only a handful of players forward and not producing any real scoring opportunities.
The defensive and ineffective tactics deployed by Wizards head coach Peter Vermes left something to be desired and made it look as though TFC would salvage a win playing with just 10 men. The shot totals may have been equal, but the quality of chances and offensive possession wasn't close to comparable. Head coach Preki's post-game comments summed up the game in a word:
"I take this as a loss."
Already playing without the services of arguably their most dynamic and only box-to-box player (Davy Arnaud), Kansas City needed individuals to step up and take hold of the game. It seemed like an opportunity for KC's Ryan Smith to get back on track playing a man-up with less defensive responsibility following Nick Garcia's dismissal. However, Kansas City failed to find the English winger for long sequences denying their only real play-maker any possibility of taking hold of the game.
"If we'd had the man advantage for the duration, I think we would have gotten forward and created a lot more," Vermes told reporters. "We came here with a point, so we came with the idea not to give away that point."
Vermes' mindset is quite telling and may be the source of some of Kansas City's problems. It's understandable to come in and not want to concede early, but when TFC went down a man early in the match, it was a mistake for Vermes not to push the issue and throw men forward. It goes to show how little confidence he has in his ever changing back four.
"We have Philadelphia at home (this week), and they are feeling good after they just won in Houston," Kansas City veteran Jimmy Conrad said. "But we know what we have to do. These are valuable points and hopefully this is the start of a run."
For Toronto FC, Preki's post-game comments and visible disappointment really display what this team has become. Gone are the days when a point at home against anyone is viewed as a good result. TFC's new acquisitions and the team's new coach have created a mindset that the Reds can get maximum points against any and every opponent in the league.
"I'm disappointed because we were going out to get the three points and finish off on a high," TFC defender Adrian Cann said. "But we managed to keep a clean sheet and come away with a point, we'll take it from there."
Lost points aside, TFC has to be concerned with the play of designated player Julian de Guzman. Team sources will blame a reoccurring hamstring injury, but the team's most high caliber and big money name didn't show up on the weekend. His wayward passes and golden scoring opportunities saw him miss-direct balls and sky open looks over the bar. TFC may begin to hear whisperings in and around BMO Field once again of blown money on a big name player that was supposed to come in and take hold of games.
Although slightly disappointed, Toronto heads into the World Cup recess on a high. Unbeaten in eight they are in a good spot and have a real opportunity to be the first team to take down Los Angeles at home should the Galaxy get past RSL Wednesday night.
It's as close to a must win as you can get for Kansas City against Philly Thursday night. Three points will take them within striking distance of fourth place Chicago in the east. A win would go a long way in restoring the confidence we saw Kansas City play with through the opening games of the season. However, we've seen what Philly can do on the road and they've been in each of their last three games leading up to the World Cup break.
Of Note: After sending off Nick Garcia and Craig Rocastle, referee Baldomero Toledo has issued 41 red cards in just 96 MLS appearances.