Instead, it ended up being mostly the stuff of nightmares for the Union center back, who was yanked at halftime for Joshua Yaro after Toronto FC blitzed him and his teammates for three first-half goals en route to a 3-1 victory Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.
“Obviously three goals is unacceptable at home,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “It’s not all on Ken. We’re a team and we’re together, but at the same time I think he had a tough half. With the speed of Josh, I thought maybe that was a better matchup dealing with [Sebastian] Giovinco, knowing they would be looking to counter in the second half having gotten their three goals. It’s a hard decision but it’s a young backline that’s still learning every day, getting better every day.
“But as hard as the night was for Ken, you still learn from it. You have to. He’ll be fine. He still played some good passes and did a heck of a job getting on the end of a cross for a goal, so there are positives.”
Both in their first MLS seasons, Tribbett and Yaro have platooned at center back for much of the season with Tribbett recently getting the leg up.
But as most young defenders would, Tribbett struggled to slow down Giovinco with the Golden Boot leader getting behind him to score the game’s first goal on a breakaway. The 24-year-old center back was also marking Drew Moor before the Toronto defender headed in a Michael Bradley free kick. And on Toronto’s third goal, Altidore used his strength to turn Tribbett and beat goalkeeper Andre Blake right before halftime.
Minutes later, Curtin told Tribbett his day was done.
“He didn’t say too much but to keep my head up,” Tribbett said. “They are fast, they are strong and had two off the post — good finishes. The situation called for a quicker-type player in Yaro.”
The Union’s other center back, Richie Marquez, said he did his best to try to boost Yaro’s confidence coming into the game in a tough spot — and was “very happy” with how the second overall pick in the 2016 SuperDraft performed in the second half.
Marquez also deflected blame from Tribbett, who showcased his excellent aerial ability by heading in a Tranquillo Barnetta free kick for his second goal of the season.
“Ken is a great player and a great friend of mine,” Marquez told MLSsoccer.com. “I still think he’s a wonderful player — that’s not going to change. I don’t think any of those goals are on any one player. There are 11 players on the field. All of us have something to do with it.”
More than anything, Marquez, Tribbett and Curtin all focused on the team’s quick turnaround as they travel to Columbus for a Wednesday game, trying to show they’re more like the team that routed New England 4-0 last week than the one hammered by Toronto at home.
“It’s tough to change my thinking after a 4-0 performance, it’s tough to change the lineup,” Curtin said. “It would be over-tinkering, I think. Tonight it didn’t work out. At the same time, we learn from it. We will watch tape. There are things we can do better.”