|Half-time and you have to wonder, just what role is the guy on the roof supposed to play?|
It was cold, overcast and breezy down by the lake today. The weather reminded me of November, y'know the proper climate for the mythical playoff dates that TFC has yet to deliver. It was bitter enough to put a smile on your face as you walked to BMO Field, for you knew that fair weather fan was not going to be in the stands for this one.
Some line-up changes forced by injury/illness at the start. Terry Dunfield's knee injury means a start for J Osorio in the midfield and the illness of Danny Califf means the first appearance of Gale Agbossoumonde.
Of course Osorio did not look as sparky as a starter as he did as a sub last week. He played well enough, it was important that he display defensive positioning today in the place of the attacking he showed against LA. He was subbed at half time for Luis Silva. If Ryan Nelsen wants Osorio and Silva to job share, it seems like a great way to foster young talent to me.
TFC had some flashes of offensive flair in the first half, more down the right wing than anywhere else. They looked less like a team abandoning the middle and hoping for wing penetration than they did against LA. It was clear that offense was secondary to solid defense in the first half. Often you would see Dallas with the ball, but TFC poised in formation. The four and four spread across the field, every player aware and Dallas unable to get into dangerous areas. It really was a moment of skill and timing that lead to the Dallas goal. Bendik moving out one split second earlier would have broken the play up. Off of a free kick the initial header from a Dallas player was sent square to a second Dallas head and an unprotected path to goal. Bop and boom and the visitors had a lead. TFC seemed to scramble their attacking signals for the remainder of that first half and never looked like they were capable of getting back into the game.
Sure we had hopes for a complete new look for the second half (but the cold was seeping into bones and taking hold of all extremities ). TFC actually looked worse despite Silva's efforts in the middle of the park. He was providing more drive and dribble, but the team was not looking like a unit. The passing was always off and the lack of vision and anticipation was frustrating.
Reggie Lambe was active in the second half, but I was wondering what his contribution truly was. He was forever running short curls down the wing, getting free and able to receive a pass, but so surrounded that he was not a viable option. This lack of promise was aggravated by the Dallas tactic of falling on Lambe every chance they got. Perhaps they do this to everyone, but it was wearing Lambe out.
Russell was equally ineffective down the right side for the dull part of the second half. He was struggling with Dallas's speed down the wing. When Dallas scored on a swift counter-attack (when seconds before we thought Bostock was on his way) you felt that the game had slipped out of reach. The ref did not have much of a grip on the game at that point (not that he ever got better) to the point that you thought that another Dallas goal would spark a fight. It was faint hope for a comeback time.
The tide seemed to turn with the arrival of Justin Braun. The almost forgotten forward made his first appearance in a Toronto uniform a memorable one. Braun came on for John Bostock, but Hogan Ephraim moved into Bostock's left wing spot and Braun took the second striker role. Now we had the big strong body paired with Earnshaw. It paid off quickly. Toronto's first goal was less than pretty, the Dallas keeper unable to follow back a pop-up and Braun in the right spot to chest it in.
TFC just looked determined from then on, to hold onto the ball and find a solution. O'Dea was jumped and pulled down in front of the net, but no call from ref. O'Dea had a back heel stopped a few minutes later.
Then the last minute Russell rocket found the target and Toronto had fought back for a draw. Joy in the stands was incredible, doubled by the fact that 20 minutes prior we looked beaten.
I think that next Saturday's game in Philadelphia (ok, actually Chester) is a big one. If Toronto wants to make a bid for playoffs, Philadelphia is the level of team they have to beat. A road victory would be a perfect momentum builder for the tough home game against Houston to follow.
The O'Dea and Agbossoumonde pairing looked smooth and capable. I am a huge fan of Danny Califf, but the Boss man is a strong replacement.
Jeremy Hall continues to look super smart defensively (and leads the team in bad passes, I am sure, offensively). Hall is athletic, covers a lot of ground and is swift in his tackles.