It was a 12-minute stretch that encapsulated Toronto FC’s entire season.
After lax defending gifted Sporting Kansas City striker C.J. Sapong the opener in the 18th minute of Saturday’s showdown at Livestrong Sporting Park, Eric Avila looked set to answer back for the Reds after Torsten Frings’ 30th-minute through ball played him behind the KC defense and into a one-on-one with goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
OPTA Chalkboard: Take a look at TFC's frustrating night in front of goal
Avila beat Nielsen, but instead of finding the net, the ball amazingly caromed off the left, then the right post without ever crossing the goal line. It was a moment of astoundingly cruel luck that, unfortunately for the Reds, typified a night of many chances and no gratification.
“I lost count of the chances we had,” newly-appointed TFC head coach Paul Mariner told MLSsoccer.com in a telephone interview after the game. “I stopped at five but someone said we had seven.”
Five minutes after Avila’s ill-fated shot, SKC went ahead 2-0 on a superb strike by an unmarked Júlio César.
Toronto answered back with several opportunities of their own, most notably two by striker Danny Koevermans. Soon after Sporting’s second, Nielsen palmed away a header from the Dutchman that seemed destined for goal.
In the second half, a wonderful through-ball from Luis Silva found Koevermans one-on-one with Nielsen, but the Dane’s kick-save preserved the shutout.
The loss dropped TFC to a 1-10-0 record in the league, while KC continued their rebound from a three-game losing streak in May. But after playing in mostly 4-3-3 and 3-4-3 formations under former head coach Aron Winter, the Reds are now adjusting to Mariner’s preferred 4-4-2.
Saturday proved that the adjustment is still a work in progress. But despite the dejected locker room after the game, Mariner says he “loved” being back on the sidelines, and was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I’m very proud of the players,” Mariner said, “because after the first 20 minutes we played well against a very good team who were at home.”
HIGHLIGHTS: SKC 2, TOR 0