Photo by ISIphotos.com
By KURTIS LARSON
TORONTO- In what has to be considered Jimmy Nielsen's best outing since joining the Wizards this season, Kansas City's 'White Puma' stood tall in preserving a scoreless draw at BMO Field, one of Major League Soccer's most difficult venues on Saturday afternoon.
While the game plot in Toronto reads of missed opportunities and lost points, a depleted and woeful Wizards side has to be satisfied with getting out of Toronto with a draw — something TFC opponents have failed to do all season.
"We knew this was going to be a battle, it was going to be a grinding type of game," Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes told reporters following the match. "Even when we were one man ahead, we were still keeping the discipline in the team. When we got a man sent off, it was an open game again."
A timid start to the first half with limited opportunities quickly turned to controversy when referee Baldomero Toledo sent off Nick Garcia for an apparent late challenge on Kei Kamara. Replays showed Garcia had missed on a clearance and his follow through caught the Kansas City forward's thigh.
"We lost Nick Garcia and people tell me that that there's no way that should be a red card," Preki said during a post-game press conference. "I don't know though because I haven't seen it because Nick was right in front of me when it happened."
"I take this as a loss," Preki went on to say. "I thought the goalkeeper made two or three really good saves in the first half and kept them in the game."
The Wizard's keeper was up to task just eight minutes into the game when TFC winger Jacob Peterson was put in on goal from a Dwayne De Rosario through pass at midfield. Nielsen charged off his line to cut Peterson's angle deflecting the potential opener with his head.
Nielsen's heroics were on display just eight minutes later when TFC's Chad Barrett found room on the Wizard's endline in the 16th minute. But Barrett's slotted cross saw an outstretched Nielsen keep the ball out of harms way with a lunging foot save once again.
"I think we did a great job and it was great to play with huge discipline," the Danish keeper said following the game."I think we worked really, really hard."
Kansas City had limited possession and limited offensive output throughout most of the game. Missing a suspended Davy Arnaud and defensive main stay Roger Espinoza, the Wizards saw things turn in their favor in the 26th minute when Garcia received a straight red. The man advantage paid dividends when Kansas City had their best scoring opportunity of the game minutes later through Ryan Smith. Smith received a pass on the left before faking a cross and cutting the ball to his less-favored right. His curling shot looked destined for goal before an outstretched Stefan Frei kept the game level heading into the break.
In the second-half the Wizards would see their hopes of three points take a serious blow when Craig Rocastle received a second yellow for a clumsy tackle on Julian de Guzman in the 56th minute. The second sending off of the game saw TFC reclaim large portions of the remaining half hour and push for their fifth straight win at home in league play. The Kansas City back-line held firm however in what may have been their best defensive outing of the season.
"The first four games of the season we had that mentality that we could grind it out no matter what," Vermes said. "It was great for us to get back to that today because at the end of the day we grinded one out."
Toronto FC did have opportunities to break the deadlock at various moments in the second half most notably through Julian de Guzman. Following strong outings in the April and May, TFC's designated player seemed a liability through portions of the match, topped off with a missed scoring opportunity late. In the 88th minute de Guzman was alone at the top of the box when a missed clearance dropped straight to his feet. However the visibly frustrated designated player's half volley attempt sailed aimlessly over the crossbar.
Toronto FC will look at the game as missed points while Kansas City are hoping the hard fought draw will go a long way in helping them get back on track before next weekend's MLS break. TFC extended their unbeaten streak to eight games while the Wizards continue to search for their first win in nearly two months. The 0-0 result saw the Reds remain perfect at home while Kansas City saw their winless drought extend to nine games.
"Both teams were slow, lethargic and tired," Preki said. "I was extremely disappointed with the substitutions that came on because I expect the guys to come on and work hard for the group. That was something that disappointed us."