If Toronto FC falls a couple of points short of making the playoffs in a couple of months, Saturday night’s failure to secure a win against the league’s worst team will be up there with the biggest wasted opportunities.
After a poor first half, the Reds looked to have the game in hand. Substitutes Sebastian Giovinco and Gregory van der Wiel had shifted the field, resulting in far better play from the visitors and a 1-0 lead after newcomer Lucas Janson’s 59th-minute goal in his debut.
However, disaster struck when long-time TFC antagonist Chris Wondolowski pounced on his own rebound after Alex Bono could not secure the initial strike and equalized in the 77th minute. It was Wondolowski’s ninth goal in 14 meetings with Toronto and prevented TFC from winning what was on paper its easiest remaining match of the season.
San Jose came in as the worst defensive squad in Major League Soccer, yet Toronto generated nearly nothing on the attack and only Giovinco, playing through a groin issue, made things happen later on. Missing the suspended Jozy Altidore and the injured Victor Vazquez had something to do with that, but not creating more against San Jose was puzzling and had to be disappointing for a group that still believes its season is not over.
Bono will likely take most of the blame, and he has mixed some great saves with some bad reads in recent weeks and has had trouble catching a number of shots recently, but the attack should not be left off the hook either. Fatigue is a valid excuse to a degree, but Saturday’s work was simply not good enough and this team is not showing enough urgency. San Jose had an 18-8 shots advantage and had nine corner kicks compared to only two for the Reds.
“Probably on most seasons and most nights I would be OK with (the draw),” head coach Greg Vanney told reporters afterward.
“It’s our fifth game in 15 days and we travelled all the way from Toronto here on a short rest, the guys put a lot of effort into it no doubt, but having gone up 1-0 and in pretty good control of the situation, to lose a ball that in one pass turns into the goal, really, just off of mistakes, just shooting ourselves in the foot at that point, then it’s extremely disappointing,” he said.
“We don’t have the leeway to make errors and give points away and that’s ultimately in the end what it was”
Vanney admitted to feeling frustration and knowing that his side needed to win that game, considering the opponent.
Veteran defender Jason Hernandez tried to accentuate the positives, but also circled back to the disappointment of only getting a draw.
“In the big picture, on the road in a tough place to play, one point is nice,
“At this point in the season when you have a 1-0 lead, we really feel like we should hold on to that and get away with all three points. It’s been one of the toughest schedule travel grinds I’ve been a part of in my 14 years, this past month, really. So to win a Cup final Wednesday and come out here and grind out a result, like I said, in the general sense it’s good, but we felt like we should have had all three.”
Hernandez defended Bono, while also praising his long-time San Jose teammate Wondolowski for making the play happen.
It’s true that the night could have been even worse for TFC had Bono not stepped up to make an excellent diving save in the 25th minute to deny what looked to be a sure goal. Justin Morrow also deflected a potential scoring strike out of danger early on.
Giovinco’s issues complicated matters up front, but it was odd to not see Drew Moor in the starting group quarterbacking the defence, or van der Wiel. Moor also came in later as a substitute. The suspended Jozy Altidore was missed, as was Chris Mavinga. At least both will be back for next weekend’s massive match with Montreal.
KEEPING THE FAITH
Vanney still believes that this group can heat up and get back into contention for a playoff spot.
“I think we have a big challenge in front of (but) I think we are in decent form and if we can come off of a regular week’s preparation and guys are somewhat in form and healthy and we can put a group out there then I think we can go on a big run and that’s what it’s going to take,” Vanney said.
“And so we’ll see. We have the capability to do it, but we have to play solid soccer and we’ve got no room for error, no margin for error.”
Complicating matters is the run D.C. United is on. D.C. won again on Sunday, shutting out New England 2-0. The team is now three points up on Toronto with two games in hand and just six behind sixth-place Montreal, with four games in hand over the Impact.
Meanwhile in MLS action on Sunday, Josef Martinez tied the league record for goals in a season (previously accomplished by three men, including Wondolowski), when he scored his 27th in Atlanta’s 3-1 win over Columbus.