September 30, 2007 MLS DC United vs Toronto FC (from MLSnet.com)
Lack of focus dooms Toronto FC
After strong first half, league's top team erupts on TFC
By Chris Snear / MLSnet.com Staff
After taking the lead on a magnificent free kick by Carl Robinson in the 14th minute, Toronto FC yield four goals in the second half to fritter away a lead and waste one of their best performances of the year in the first half.
United scored four sensational goals in an 18-minute span to overcame a disjointed first half in which Toronto forced the hosts into bad situations with a composed and compact defensive structure.
"It was hard to swallow," said Toronto coach Mo Johnston. "It's tough to say it after giving up four goals, but I thought our defense was sound. They changed up and brought Moreno and Olsen in and they changed the way they played. They scored three unbelievable goals. I thought one was offside but the other three were tremendous strikes."
Toronto have not won since a 2-1 win at Real Salt Lake on July 4th and snapped the longest goalless streak in league history (824 minutes) with an early goal against Columbus last Saturday in a 2-1 loss. Despite the early goal again, they once again could not sustain the focus and intensity to hold the lead.
"That was one of the better halves we've played all year but at the same time we have to make it 90 minutes not 45. We have to stay in the game mentally," added Toronto defender Tyrone Marshall. "That was our biggest problem tonight, we didn't have that 90-minute focus. We did it for 45 and they got a goal and we just let down."
"There were positives ... We created some chances, and also we scored a nice goal, but all of a sudden you get three cracking goals against you. It's very difficult to take," said Johnston.
United scored two goals from the exact same spot just five minutes apart to take the lead by the 57th minute. Marc Burch's scorcher from 22 yards out at the left corner of the penalty area beat Kenny Stamatopoulos high and to the near post and Fred's bender from almost that exact spot beat him to the far post.
Jaime Moreno's goal in the 66th minute stood despite several appeals for offside by Johnston and most of the Toronto players. Moreno waltzed in free and smashed a shot through Stamatopoulos to make the score 3-1.
Luciano Emilio became the first player to score 20 goals in the league since Taylor Twellman and Carlos Ruiz did it in 2002. He hammered a full volley after Christian Gomez's free kick caromed off the cross bar directly to him, unmarked in the penalty area.
"I think we dominated the first half, especially on the road, against D.C., a powerful club, and then came the second half and we let it slip through our fingers," added Toronto goalkeeper Stamatopoulos.
Toronto's defensive structure was extremely compact and aggressive in the first half, aided by a United attack that repeatedly tried in vain to push through the cluttered middle.
"Their mentality was to get everyone behind the ball and make it hard for us to play and I don't think we handled it very well," said United coach Tom Soehn. "I don't think we came out with enough drive. We came out and reacted to everything instead of anticipating like we're good at. We didn't keep the width. We addressed that and the second half we played wide and held the line and it opens up the whole field for us."
Toronto did not adjust to United's insertion of Moreno and Ben Olsen that immensely diversified their attack.
"We didn't make the adjustment. They got that early goal and it gave them confidence and they came back and got another one and we just dropped our heads a little bit and by the time we looked it goes three and four," said Marshall.
With Olsen on the flank, United starting playing the ball wide, stretching the field, and the ability of Moreno to hold the ball finally broke Toronto down.
"I think making them deal with me out wide and the balls from the left back [Burch] really stretched them out defensively. Then guys like Jaime, Luciano and Christian can take over," said Olsen.
"It was a little bit narrow for us; forcing it down the middle and we didn't open them up at all, we weren't threatening," Olsen commented about the first half performance. "They also got stretched. They got tired. They put a lot of defense in that first half, too. They were really organized in the first half and stayed compact. They lost their shape a little bit, too."
Maurice Edu had Toronto's only real opportunity just moments into the second half, but his right-footed blast whistled just wide of the left post.
"It makes you wonder sometimes if we are really focused on the game for 90 minutes," said a puzzled Marshall. "D.C. is one of those teams, if you give them that 10-minute span, they scored three goals on us. It can't happen. They had their spurt and they scored their goals and we had our moments in the second half and could have gotten one in but the ball didn't bounce our way."
Chris Snea is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
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