It seems reality has finally hit home for Toronto FC and their fans.
After a stellar 2-0 start to the season, Toronto was decimated by Real Salt Lake in a 3-0 victory at Rio Tinto Stadium. Alvaro Saborio had the brace, with Luis Gil scoring the other goal to get the home squad 3 points in what is sure to be another tight playoff race in the Western Conference this year. On the other side of the pitch, Toronto showed that they have not quite come together as a team yet, and that all of their off-season hype doesn’t make the MLS season any less long or difficult.
Both squads were missing some important starters for this one. Joao Plata, who is off to a hot start with RSL this season, was hobbled with a hamstring injury sustained in last week’s match against the LA Galaxy. Toronto FC was missing midfielder Jackson to a suspension, and midfielder Jonathan Osorio was out with a hamstring injury that happened during practice earlier this week.
In what turned out to be a physical match throughout, Toronto’s fate was sealed early on during the 10th minute of play, when Saborio went up against Toronto defender Doneil Henry. After a battle for positioning in the box, Saborio went down with incredible ease, drawing the attention of the referee and was awarded a penalty kick. Saborio then converted on the penalty chance, making the game 1-0.
After that, Toronto could never find their footing. They were playing with too much urgency too early in the match, trying to spring forward Jermaine Defoe on passes over the RSL defense and taking long shots. This lead to Real Salt Lake thoroughly dominating possession of the ball in the first half, putting on a spectacular passing display lead by Javier Morales, and paved the way to Gil scoring their second goal in the 28th minute. Frustrations by the away squad started to show near the end of the first half, as three players (Defoe, Henry, and Calwell) were all booked for yellow cards within minutes of one another.
Things didn’t improve in the second half for Toronto. Even though Michael Bradley made some important plays on both sides of the ball, and Jermaine Defoe was playing with some decent speed and skill, they still couldn’t get the ball away from Real Salt Lake, who continued to get scoring chance after scoring chance. This eventually lead to Saborio getting the brace in the 55th minute after chipping one over keeper Julio Cesar to make it 3-0.
To add insult to injury (or in this case the reverse), Defoe was subbed out in the 61st minute, and was escorted down the tunnel by a trainer while clutching the back of his leg. Considering Defoe has been basically the whole offense for Toronto thus far, it would be devastating if he is out for any lengthy period of time.
For this week’s UGH Award (Unsung Game Hero), I’m going to go with a player on the losing side: Justin Morrow. Even though he was a more under-the-radar signing by Toronto in the offseason (especially compared to the other names they acquired), he showed what he could do offensively with the ball. He made multiple quality crossing attempts at various stages throughout the match, which gave Toronto corners and their few decent scoring chances. Yes, he was part of a defensive group that gave up three goals, but he still deserves recognition for giving some offense to a team that was starving for it.