TORONTO — It’s not often when the goalkeeper of the winning team apologizes.
But Milos Kocic, making his first start of the season Wednesday night, did just that after Toronto FC defeated Real Estelí of Nicaragua 2-1 in the first leg in their CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round.
With 10 minutes to play and with his team up 2-0, Kocic went to the left side of the goal to scoop up the ball, slipped and coughed it up. It resulted in an easy goal for Alesandro Calera.
That provided an important away goal for Real Estelí that could come into play next week in the second leg in Nicaragua in what likely will be difficult conditions for Toronto. It was, as the British press might say, a howler.
“I just want to apologize to the fans and my team for the mistake,” Kocic said after the match. “I’m down right now but I won’t be down tomorrow. I have to work hard and keep my head up and make sure that doesn’t happen next time.”
Still, it was a victory for TFC, which have been all too rare this season. It was fashioned by two goals by Joao Plata, who came into the match in the 49th minute. Next week may not be so straightforward.
“We dominated,” Kocic said. “We should just keep our composure the way we did today, go there and play the same way. It’s going to be under tough conditions. The fields, whatever comes to us, referees, fans whatever, we have to be brave, we have to go there with heart like we did today and get to the group stage.”
Kocic was given the start as Stefan Frei had played in goal for every game until now and also had a hand injury. When the game was over, Aron Winter, his coaching staff and teammates — including Frei — consoled Kocic.
“I just came to pick up the ball like I’ve picked up millions of balls like that,” Kocic said. “It was wet grass and then all of a sudden dry grass. I was like sliding out and the dry grass just flipped me over the ball. ... It’s unacceptable, obviously, mistakes shouldn’t happen. But it’s sport, what can I say.”
“He was upset,” Winter said. “Because with it 2-1, he didn’t like it. It was his fault and he was a little bit down. Until that moment, the team was doing very well and after that they were also doing very well.
“You have to bring him in and put an arm around him to say listen these things happen and that’s football. All those things can happen but we still played well until that moment and after it he had also have done very well”
Even with Kocic’s misfortune, Winter feels that Toronto could have won by more. “With the opportunities we had, the score needed to be more,” he said. “We were unlucky at the end and gave away a goal because at that moment we were doing very well.”