In a game that truly lived up to a tale of two halves, Toronto FC probably should have headed to the showers after 45 minutes on Saturday night.
Preki’s side followed up a promising opening stanza with a horrendous, mistake-filled second half in a 4-1 loss to the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.
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Only a couple of stellar saves from Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei prevented the Revolution from reaching six or seven goals in a match that included some startling defensive breakdowns for Toronto in a second straight loss to open 2010.
The ringleader of a circus of gaffes was veteran defender Nick Garcia, who struggled mightily and didn’t improve his status with a fan base starved for a team turnaround after a dismal end to its 2009 campaign.
Toronto’s performance likely raised the sense of urgency to upgrade the defense, but perhaps help is on the way. Reports surfaced Saturday that the club is close to signing Russian defender Maxim Usanov.
Still, Garcia wasn’t the only culprit. The Revs also exposed Nana Attakora and Dan Gargan, with Schilawski outhustling Attakora to a ball in the 59th minute to convert an opportunity for his first career hat trick.
New England capitalized on Toronto’s defensive implosion to score four goals in just 19 minutes, negating the 1-0 lead Toronto took into the half.
The Reds’ lead came courtesy of some inspired from new captain Dwayne De Rosario. The veteran was pesky from the first whistle and was rewarded when his perfectly-placed header off a Garcia cross in the 28th minute eluded Revs goalkeeper Preston Burpo.
Preki put out a new-look lineup, inserting youngster Amadou Sanyang in for an ailing Julian de Guzman, replacing Sam Cronin with draft pick Joseph Nane and moving Nick LaBrocca up into the attacking midfielder role. The changes raised some eyebrows, but the team held its own with strong steady play from Sanyang and Martin Saric, who filled in admirably for de Guzman in a holding role.
Even newly acquired Latvian defender Raivis Hscanovics was steady in his MLS debut.
But despite the team's first goal of the season and some highlights for their youngsters, it’s clear Toronto’s backline is in dire need of veteran leadership. The heat is squarely on Director of Soccer Mo Johnston to find some competent help and find it fast before the season turns ugly.