San Jose 1 Earthquakes Toronto FC 1: Scrappy Draw at Buck ShawBy: Sairax | April 10th, 2011
Toronto FC hit the road to face San Jose Earthquakes and came away with their first away point this season. It wasn’t always pretty, but there were some notable strong passages of play. Some of our new acquisitions are starting to show real promise on the pitch as well. Points away from home are few and far between for most MLS teams and TFC have always been poor on the road, but for some reason we seem to do well when we play away to San Jose. A point gained at Buck Shaw is nothing to sniff at and gives us some positives before facing LA Galaxy midweek.
San Jose Earthquakes: Starters: Jon Busch, Jason Hernandez, Brandon McDonald, Ike Opara, Ramiro Corrales (85′), Bobby Convey, Sam Cronin, Simon Dawkins, Khari Stephenson (80′), Ryan Johnson, Chris Wondolowski
Bench: Andrew Weber, Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Bobby Burling, Joey Gjertsen (85′), Chris Leitch, Matt Luzunaris (80′), Brad Ring
Toronto FC: Starters: Stefan Frei, Ty Harden, Nana Attakora (46′), Adrian Cann, Danleigh Borman, Maicon Santos (65′), Jacob Peterson, Tony Tchani, Javier Martina, Alan Gordon, Alen Stevanovic (63′)
Bench: Kocic, Cordon, de Guzman (46′), Gargan, Plata (65′), Yourassowsky, Zavarise (63′)
San Jose got an early shot off within the first couple minutes, but after that it was mostly a midfield battle between the teams to try and gain control. The Earthquakes were doing better getting the ball forward whereas TFC’s buildup wasn’t doing much to penetrate the final third. Most of the play was pretty dull until the 16th minute when Dawkins received a cutback and found himself in some space to have a shot that just went wide of the post. Toronto’s first good shot came soon after when some good play between Gordon and Stevanovic led to a shot from Maicon, but it was too weak. San Jose quickly got themselves to our end of the pitch for Johnson to have a chance on goal. Most of the San Jose attacks were coming down our right flank where I literally didn’t realize Martina was playing until someone mentioned him on twitter.
If it wasn’t going to be Martina’s day, then Stevanovic was trying hard to grab some of the attention. He saw a lot of the ball in the first half and generally did well dribbling down the left flank. TFC’s goal in the first half came after Stevanovic got down the byline and with some help from Borman and Maicon, the ball found its way into the box where Gordon scored his second of the season. I love that we have a big, strong striker that crashes the box, throws himself at balls coming into the area, and gets at the end of headers. So many times we’ve seen a chance go begging because no one thought to position themselves in just the right spot in the opposition area and I like how Gordon brings that to the team.
Our goal didn’t stop San Jose from pressing in attack. While our play was coming mainly down the left, so was San Jose on their left. They were in acres of space at times and there were just too many huge gaping holes in our defense that they quickly tried to exploit. Bobby Convey in particular was able to dribble and get away from our players with ease. Any time they got a sniff at goal, they would take a shot, from 12 yards or 30 yards. Stefan Frei kept safe hands for the most part, but the Earthquakes were able to equalize when Dawkins, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, found himself unmarked in space after some quick passing play and hit a shot past Frei to make it 1-1 in the 38th minute. The worst part was there were at least 5 of our players back and yet no one was able to get a block or tackle in to stop Dawkins. San Jose finished the half on top and I breathed a sigh of relief at the halftime whistle. While we had some good spells in attacking play, we were way too open and needed some more discipline for the second half.
The second half saw Nana come off (second game in a row he’s been taken off at halftime) and de Guzman come on. Peterson seemed to shift over to a rightback position while Harden went in to partner Cann in the centre of defense. San Jose came out trying to continue their momentum from the first half. Wondolowski was looking threatening and gave us a massive scare when he hit a hard shot from close range, but Frei got down to save while Harden made a strong block when Wondolowski hit another shot off the rebound. Having de Guzman on the pitch helped since he was able to, you know, pass the ball to another player wearing red. It’s nice when a player can do that. Maicon may need to take some lessons in that. Julian does look like he’s carrying a bit of weight. I hope we aren’t rushing him back too early and I really hope he doesn’t re-injure himself.
While de Guzman didn’t pick up any bad knocks in the game, Stevanovic most certainly did, and he had to be subbed off for Zavarise. Plata also came on for our new captain Maicon (the armband was passed on to JdG as he went off). Plata is quite small, but he made some great runs down the left flank. His only issue at the moment seems to be decision-making in the final third. TFC’s next good chance came from Gordon who got himself in a good position to the keeper’s left, but his shot was too weak. Perhaps he could have taken that better to put us in the lead. The only other really good chance I can remember was when Martina, who had a more subdued game, hit a shot near post that ended up skimming over the bar. The last half hour of the match basically consisted of the Earthquakes trying to overwhelm us and pin us back under pressure. Cann came up really big during this last part of the game. He was everywhere making blocks and tackles. It was a great performance that kept our precious point intact at the end of the day. In past seasons we would have conceded in the dying minutes of a match, but we held firm and showed some steel to see it through.
Full Time Stats (via MLSsoccer.com): San Jose Earthquakes v Toronto FC
On target 5-3
Possession % 58-42
There were definitely some shaky moments for TFC, but we also saw some players finding their feet. Tchani is looking like a very good pick up from NYRB. Julian will provide stability in the midfield and hopefully will be fit enough to play 90 minutes sooner rather than later. Stevanovic looked threatening out wide, but there is some worry about him picking up an injury. Peterson looked good playing more defensively. I’ve already said it too much this season, but it’s baby steps for this team, and we’re seeing slight progressions every time along with the bumps in the road. We have a tough challenge with the Galaxy coming to BMO this week so there’s no time to rest. The games will be coming fast at us now and we will start to see really how this team is coming together in the coming weeks.
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