Chicago Corners – TFC Drops More Points On The Road
Toronto FC has been atop the league in few statistical categories this season, and for that matter they have been at the bottom of the league in few as well. Today I want to touch upon two of those stats that stand out for me, especially after last night in Chicago where TFC dropped two precious points on the road to a very beatable Chicago Fire side. And both stats revolve around corner kicks.
Going into last night, Toronto FC led all of Major League Soccer in the number of corner kick conceded. And that has been the state of affairs since early on in the season. It is not out of the ordinary to see TFC give up 8-10 corners a game (with last evening being a rare exception). This in my opinion speaks to the fact that Toronto FC has had next to no “real” wing play all season, and this leads our defenders to have to try and absorb periods of sustained pressure that lead to far more corners being conceded. Furthermore because they play so much of their play through the middle of the pitch
And the opposite is the case of course when it comes to earning corners in the offensive zone. In this case TFC trails all of MLS when it comes to corners earned. And I think the lack of width and ability to sustain offensive pressure on opponents all season long that this statistic shows is why the club is where it is today, namely on the outside of the playoffs coming down the stretch.
But last night things were slightly different than the norm for TFC when it comes to corners earned. For the first time all season, Toronto had a significantly higher number of corner kicks earned than Chicago did. On top of that TFC (again a season first) led the possession statistic for an away game, by 52% to 48%. And with all that going for them, Toronto only managed to create two or three scoring chances that as we all know led to no goals.
Hard work, possession, a solid defensive outing (with the Ljundberg breakaway notwithstanding) and sustained offensive pressure led to only one point against a club in Chicago that looked even worse than Toronto did. The three points last night were there for the taking and yet Toronto simply was not good enough up front to convert the positive momentum they had for long stretches of the game into a goal. I understand that with the injuries to Maicon Santos and Chad Barrett (glad to see Maicon back even for a bit last night) there is going to be a drop off in quality up front, but when a club has to rely upon a Jacob Peterson or an O’Brien White as strikers it speaks volumes to the lack of depth on this club. Defenders like Hscanovic (on a wage packet of $120,000!) sit on the bench and can’t get into any league games while the club has to rely on plumbers like Peterson up front to try and score.
Four years in and Mo Johnston has yet to address the two most glaring weaknesses on this club, a lack of a consistent scorer up front and either creative wingers or fullbacks that can give the team some width and linking play between them and the strikers. Four years has been more than long enough Mr. Johnston. There are four road games let for Toronto that they must try and get something out of if there is any chance to make it to the MLS playoffs. Three of them are against clubs below Toronto currently in the standings (DC, Chivas and Houston) and of course a toughie in Seattle against a resurgent Sounders club that is one of the key competitors for that last playoff spot.
This little animation of Preki pushing a camera away after Toronto was not awarded an obvious hand ball that would have led to a penalty last night certainly speaks to how much pressure both he and the club are apparently feeling right now as this playoff chase sputters along. Lets see how they handle the pressure of what the math says is a game they must get no less than three points from against DC United Saturday afternoon at BMO Field.
Postscript: Getting robbed from a penalty kick on a hand ball late in the first half certainly did no favours to Toronto’s playoff hopes last evening either. Ironically he is the very same official who called almost the exact same play against Marvell Wynne last season in Dallas that also cost TFC two points. Way to go MLS!