Kenny Cooper put Toronto FC to the sword on Sunday afternoon, scoring two late goals for FC Dallas to send John Carver’s side to their first Major League Soccer loss at home in 2008. TFC are falling fast after a great start to the season and now look likely to miss out on the playoffs unless they can turn things around.
Click here for our Dallas correspondent Phillip Woodruff’s take on Sunday’s game.
The sun was bearing down on BMO Field on a hot summer afternoon, fostering a sluggish start to the game from both sides. Toronto were taking the initiative through Rohan Ricketts and Jim Brennan’s overlapping runs down the left flank, but the FC Dallas defenders were able to keep goalkeeper Dario Sala from too much trouble in the early stages.
FCD coach Schellas Hyndman was forced into an early change in just the 6th minute, bringing in Michael Dello-Russo for midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, who was forced to leave the game with a calf strain.
The best chance of the first half came from Toronto’s centerback Marco Vélez, who found himself alone on the end of a Laurent Robert corner in the 19th minute but could only hit a bouncing shot straight at Sala.
Just moments later, Vélez made contact with Sala jumping for another corner, leaving the Dallas keeper winded and needing a few minutes, enough time for referee Baldomero Toledo to hand Vélez a yellow card. Replays showed that the contact appeared incidental at worst and hardly malicious.
The second half started lively, with both sides eager to make the breakthrough. Just after the hour mark, Bruno Guarda entered the game for Dallas and Tyler Hemming replaced Julius James in the Toronto lineup, instantly making his mark with several darting runs down the right flank.
It marked an interesting turnaround for the London, Ontario native, as Hemming had left the club earlier this season to pursue opportunites in Europe. With Jarrod Smith’s promotion to the senior roster, however, Hemming was able to rejoin the club as a senior development player and has made the most of that opportunity.
New signing Chad Barrett came close for the Reds in the 69th minute, collecting a headed clearance in the area and lashing a shot over Sala’s goal. The former Chicago striker appeared to have strained a calf muscle in the play and was substituted for Jarrod Smith after another lengthy delay.
The game’s real talking point came at the turn of the 79th minute, however. Kenny Cooper was looking for space on the left side when the whistle blew for an apparent off-the-ball incident in the 18-yard-box involving Amado Guevara and Pablo Ricchetti. Guevara sent the Argentine tumbling to the ground and was given a straight red card while Ricchetti tended a bloody nose.
The foul took place in the penalty area, leaving FCD with an opportunity to take the lead from 12 yards. Cooper stutter-stepped to the spot and easily sent Sutton the wrong way, taking the lead and seemingly condemning 10-man Toronto to a first league defeat at home this season.
Toronto’s players were incensed with the call, with captain Brennan leading the protests and subsequently booked for dissent. Vélez contested another seemingly routine throw-in decision just minutes later too vigorously for Toledo, who issued the Puerto Rican his second yellow card, reducing TFC to nine men.
Amid coach John Carver’s protests, Toledo made his way to the sidelines and bizarrely sent off Toronto physio Carmelo Lobue.
Five minutes of stoppage time was greeted with ironic applause from the home fans, but their enthusiasm was short-lived as Cooper struck just seconds after the 90th minute mark. The free-scoring striker found space with two defenders ahead of him and struck a 30-yard shot at Sutton, who dove to his right but couldn’t keep out the bouncing ball.
Again, the Canadian goalkeeper looked as though he should have done better with the chance. The club’s recent streak may have dented Sutton’s confidence and could open the door for American prospect Brian Edwards to get the call in Colorado on Saturday.
Toronto’s ill-discipline may have done them in once again, but club captain Jim Brennan had other ideas.
“I think we’ve done alright, but the game got spoiled a little bit,” he said afterwards. “It was an entertaining game, we had them pinned in the second half there and we had a great chance, we felt we were going to score. Then, certain things happen and it wrecks the game, and that’s what happened today.”
FC Dallas defender and Canadian international Adrian Serioux had his own interpretation of events:
“It’s always good to come back and play in front of family and friends and get a result that we needed badly. You know it’s a great atmosphere and I’m sure the fans were behind their team, but when certain players on your team aren’t disciplined, as they were tonight, it’s costly, and that’s what happened to them.”
Coach Carver was reserved in his criticism of the officials, preferring to focus instead on the roster problems affecting Toronto.
“It’s frightening,” he told reporters after the game. “We only had 5 on the bench. There’s a reason for that, they’ve got to prove to me that they’re good enough to play and get on the bench… I think we might have to get (Academy coach and former Canadian international) Nick Dasovic to put his boots on!”
Carver refused to blame Barrett for the team’s scoring woes.
“He did some good things… I think he’s more of a poacher, he’s not a spectacular goal-man… The more he gets to know the guys the more he’ll get on, and I think he’s got goals in him. He needs to work on his fitness.”
With Sunday’s defeat, Toronto sit precariously in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, one point outside of the playoff reckoning with a game in hand over Los Angeles Galaxy.
The top two sides in each division will be seeded against the next-best four teams regardless of conference, leaving Toronto in a cross-division battle with the Galaxy, Chivas USA, Kansas City Wizards, Red Bull New York, Colorado Rapids and even outsiders San Jose Earthquakes for the last playoff spot. Just five points separate the eight-placed Galaxy from historical rivals San Jose in last place, who stole a 3-2 win over David Beckham and company on the weekend.
Toronto’s next chance to close the gap comes at Dick’s Sporting Goods park in Colorado on Saturday, a potentially must-win game for either side as they try to secure playoff action after missing out last season.
FC Dallas (6-6-7) vs. Toronto FC (6-8-4)
August 3, 2008 — BMO Field
FCD — Kenny Cooper 12 (penalty kick [Ricchetti]) 81
FCD — Kenny Cooper 13 (unassisted) 90+1
FC Dallas — Dario Sala, Drew Moor, Aaron Pitchkolan, Blake Wagner, Adrian Serioux, Andre Rocha (Bruno Guarda 64), Eric Avila, Pablo Ricchetti, Marcelo Saragosa (Michael Dello-Russo 7), Kenny Cooper, Dominic Oduro (Abe Thompson 74).
Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Daniels, Mike Graczyk, Jamie Watson, Chase Wileman
Toronto FC — Greg Sutton, Julius James (Tyler Hemming 65), Tyrone Marshall, Marco Velez, Jim Brennan, Rohan Ricketts, Amado Guevara, Carl Robinson, Laurent Robert, Chad Barrett (Jarrod Smith 70), Jeff Cunningham (Kevin Harmse 87).
Substitutes Not Used: Brian Edwards, Tyler Rosenlund
TOR — Marco Velez (caution; Reckless Foul) 27
DAL — Andre Rocha (caution; Reckless Foul) 57
TOR — Amado Guevara (ejection; Violent Conduct) 79
TOR — Jim Brennan (caution; Dissent) 81
TOR — Marco Velez (ejection; Second Caution) 84
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee’s Assistants: C.J. Morgante; Adam Wienckowski
4th official: Jorge Gonzalez
Time of game: 1:56
Weather: Sunny -and- 77 degrees