Team is different, but challenges the same for Toronto

Richard Eckersley and Portland Timbers player

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TORONTO – Toronto FC's team may have looked different than normal in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers, but the Reds' troubles stayed the same.

Missing five players due to international duty and another to suspension on Wednesday night, Toronto still walked away with an all-too-familiar lesson: their set-piece defending needs to improve.

The Portland Timbers equalized late in the second half, but the goal that annoyed head coach Paul Mariner the most and the one that the players came back to time and again after the game was the Timbers' first, coming in the 21st minute off a corner kick.

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“You’ve got to execute,” Mariner said. “You look at the setups, every single team in the world sets up slightly differently but the one thing you’ve got to do, you’ve got have that desire inside you that that ball is not going to be won by one of the opposition.

"Clearly, it can’t happen and if it does then you have to react and get it out of your box. And it’s something we’re having difficulty dealing with. The delivery was good but it’s disappointing and it’s not as if we don’t work on it.”

The goal came after a corner kick by Timbers full back Steven Smith. David Horst got his head to it for Portland and though Eric Avila blocked the initial attempt, Sal Zizzo knocked in the rebound.

“I think we’re all disappointed, we’ve come to expect a standard and we let standard slip especially giving away a set piece,” said defender Richard Eckersley, usually a right back who once against was playing a center back.

It was the seventh goal in the league that Toronto have allowed this season after a corner kick and Eckersley was hard-pressed to come up with an answer to explain why it continues to be a problem.

“I don’t know because we’ve got the big lads in there to head the balls away,” he said. “So it’s a tough one to answer. I just think you have to have the willingness to go and win the ball and if you get anything on it, just get it away. At the moment I don’t think we have that and we need to work on it.”