Boy, did Toronto FC ever need this one.
A few days after being humiliated in Mexico, the Reds rebounded with an impressive 2-1 win over the MLS champion Colorado Rapids Saturday afternoon courtesy of a pair of second-half goals from Dutch forward Danny Koevermans.
Koevermans continues his hot scoring streak with six goals in seven Major League Soccer games for TFC, who improved to 6-12-12 on the campaign.
“This is such a tough league and with [the addition of] the Champions League, you have to travel so much, it takes a lot out of your body. I feel it,” said Koevermans, who signed with TFC in June from Dutch club PSV Eindhoven.
With four matches remaining in the MLS regular season, the result does little to help Toronto’s slim playoff hopes. But after suffering one of the most humiliating setbacks in club history, this was a huge morale booster.
The Canadian outfit was coming off an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Pumas in Mexico midweek in the CONCACAF Champions League. That game saw the Mexicans run the Reds ragged and easily exploit their frail central defensive pairing of Andy Iro and Ty Harden.
In the aftermath of the Mexico debacle, TFC coach Aron Winter used a five-man defence against the Rapids, deploying midfielder Torsten Frings as a sweeper to play behind the troubled duo.
The tactic worked. TFC’s back line look assured under the German’s watchful eye, and except on one occasion bore no resemblance to a porous defensive unit that has conceded a league-worst 52 goals this season.
Harden and Iro he benefited from having Frings, who played in two World Cups for Germany, closely supporting them.
“It helped because we were never one-against one. We always had an extra man in the back,” Harden admitted. “We all look to him to be a leader back there.”
Winter explained he used Frings as part of five-man defence to counter the speed of Colorado’s forwards, and provide his team more security when it wasn’t in possession.
Putting Frings in defence is a waste of the German’s natural strengths as a commanding box-to-box midfielder who possesses impeccable distribution skills. But coach Winter doesn’t exactly have a lot of defensive options, and he had to do something to avoid a repeat of the team’s shambolic performance against Pumas.
Still, Winter won’t make a habit of playing his captain in defence if he can help it: “Torsten is a midfield player and we are lucky that he can also play [in defence].”
To his credit, Frings did not moan about being played out of position, and assumed the role with great ease as he expertly organized the defence and showed great leadership.
“That’s my role as a defender. I try to talk to the players. I see that the team is playing better and better every week,” Frings said through an interpreter.
With goalkeeper Stefan Frei still bothered by a thigh problem, backup Milos Kocic started in goal for Toronto. The Reds were missing midfielder Joao Plata (hamstring injury), who Winter confirmed will be out of action for three to four weeks.
The opening half was a pretty uneventful affair, played out before a funereal and muted crowd, with both teams cancelling each other out in midfield.
Indeed, the lack of atmosphere inside what is a normally boisterous BMO Field was eerie. Two of the team’s supporter vocal groups, the U-Sector and Red Patch Boys, were noticeably sedate and the din of silence coming from usual spot in the south end of the stadium was deafening.
The game and the fans finally came to life in the 52nd minute. TFC defender Ashtone Morgan received a pass down the left wing and whipped a beautiful ball into the six-yard box for Koevermans to knock past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Koevermans doubled Toronto’s advantage eight minutes later, scoring on a glancing header off a right-wing cross from Nick Soolsma.
The Rapids refused to die, though, and Sanna Nyassi scored from the middle of the box in the 69th minute after the Toronto defence failed to clear the ball out of danger.
Canadian midfielder Matt Stinson replaced Koevermans and carved out a pair of scoring chance to give back the momentum to TFC.
Richard Eckersley made an outstanding goal-line clearance to deny Colorado’s Drew Moor in the final minute of regulation time and preserve the victory for the home side.
NOTES: Defender Kyle Davies, acquired in a trade Thursday, did not dress for Toronto ... TFC hosts Tauro FC of Panama on Sept. 20 in CONCACAF Champions League play. The Reds return to MLS action next Saturday with a visit to Los Angeles for a match against Chivas USA.