Drilling down on: at Toronto FC 2, New England 2

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Man of the Match

Toronto FC’s Ashtone Morgan’s dashes forward from the left back spot were trouble for New England (and right back Kevin Alston in particular). His crosses led to both of TFC’s first half goals.

Packaged for take-away

  • With just three of a possible 21 points on the road this year, rallying from two goals down is a great result for New England. Heartbreaking for the home team, of course, but that’s the way things have gone all year for TFC.
  • That’s the second consecutive match TFC failed to hold a two-goal lead.
  • This is going to come from the file of “blatantly obvious,” but TFC certainly hasn’t had enough experience protecting a lead. It was so obvious as the home team finished this one in a meek, defensive crouch. For almost 20 minutes, TFC had zilch for possession, couldn’t properly clear balls and lacked any real defensive organization.
  • TFC veteran Torsten Frings was surely losing his legs, playing for the second time in four nights, so manager Paul Mariner made the call to withdraw him after 67 minutes. But you have to wonder if a fading Frings wasn’t a better choice than the inexperienced Logan Emory, because the TFC defense and midfield quickly devolved into an absolute mess. His leadership and guidance were sorely missed.
  • With TFC missing two center backs, Richard Eckersley has moved inside for Mariner, partnering with Doneil Henry on Saturday. It was Eckersley’s second match at the position after debuting there Wednesday in Houston. He’s clearly not comfortable with the traffic around him once the balls are gathered; a big thump forward was usually his response.
  • Henry could have been shown a straight red for his awful tackle just outside the penalty area in the 73rd. We are sure the disciplinary committee will take a look at that one.
  • A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy had their wobbly moments in the middle of New England’s back line, too.
  • All that passing and possession that Aron Winter wanted to teach, the dynamic 4-3-3 triangles and all? It didn’t really take, of course, which is part of the reason the Dutchman didn’t survive. At any rate, the way forward under Mariner looks quite different. It’s all about just enough possession to get a good aim forward for Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson, the frontrunners in a 4-4-2.
  • That’s always going to be the best way forward if Mariner continues to play a narrow diamond in midfield, with two players “wide” who have a central man’s instincts: Julian de Guzman and Terry Dunfield. Morgan did a great job of providing width on the left, but it’s not always going to be that easy getting forward.
  • Koevermans is having an unbelievable week for Toronto, making Mariner’s reconstruction efforts a lot more doable. The DP Dutchman had two in the mid-week draw with Houston and then supplied Saturday’s scoring opener.
  • Koevermans put his big body and experience to work early against the much lesser experienced Soares, who needed to more aggressively attack an early cross by Julian de Guzman. He didn’t, but Koevermans did, giving the home team a 4th minute lead off Morgan’s whipped-in cross.
  • TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic most of the big saves and caught what he needed to catch in a highly capable afternoon. He may have saved Chris Tierney’s stoppage time equalizer, but Eckersley was standing right in his way and even deflected the shot before it got to his ‘keeper.
  • Jeremy Hall’s long throw-ins really are quite a weapon for TFC, especially when Matt Reis struggled to deal with balls dropping into his area, which was the case early Saturday.
  • Without injured Shalrie Joseph to distribute, Benny Feilhaber needed to fall closer to his own goal to pick up balls from the back. With the top playmaker in deeper areas, much of the Revs’ attack went through Lee Nguyen on the left. Later, Nguyen dropped into the middle as the Revs, behind by two with about 25 minutes remaining, switched into a 4-3-3. It was a great tactical move, one that TFC failed wholly in dealing with.
  • Feilhaber’s influence grew at the point of the 4-3-3 switch, too, mostly in conducting the attack. But he also cracked the post from 17 yards in the 88th.
  • New England striker Saer Sene was really off his game, otherwise that inexperience and uncomfortable back line could have been had a time or two more. Sene was in alone on Kocic in the 85th only to shank his shot badly wide, for instance.
  • Diego Fagundez, 17, got the start ahead of Blake Brettschneider and didn’t perform badly, occasionally troubling the Reds with his speed and technical ability. He remains an exciting prospect. Best evidence: Fagundez took advantage of too much space allotted at the top of the 18 and forced a wonderful save from Milos Kocic in the 18th. The effort still banged off the crossbar.