Santos Laguna 1 – 0 Toronto FC
Expectations can be everything in life and in following the football team that you support. Based on the quality of their recent performances, most TFC supporters likely had very low expectations with their respect to their team’s chances of going down to Mexico and earning a result against one of the top teams in the Liga MX. Thus, even with the Toronto forwards massively bungling their early scoring chances, it is not a stretch to look at TFC’s 1-0 loss in the match that eliminated them from the 2012-CONCACAF Champions League tournament as a decent performance overall and one that could have been a whole lot worse.
We can only speculate on how much the final score line was influenced by the fact that Santos Laguna did not field a full strength squad and used several string players in a game in which a 1-0 win was really all they needed. As has been the case in recent weeks, Toronto was lead by strong performances by Richard Eckersley and Terry Dunfield, while the Reds offense continued to struggle to put the ball into the opposition net.
The key to the ratings, as seems to be the logic on a scale of 1-10, is not to view it as a “grade”, as in a 6 would be a 60 or a C. The formula is that each player begins the game with a 5 and is the equilibrium from which their performance either improves or degrades moving in increments of .5.
Here is the breakdown of the starting XI:
Freddy Hall – 6
If Richard Eckersley was Batman in this game, Freddy Hall was clearly his Robin. A fine overall performance by the TFC keeper in a match in which he showed sure hands and did his part in keeping the proceedings close. Hall had absolute no chance on the rocket of a shot that Hercules Gomez scored on.
Jeremy Hall – 5.5
As stated above, expectations can be everything. This was a match in which I expected Hall to get torched by the Santos forwards. Instead, the right back played a strong overall game and saved a goal with a vital clearance off the line.
MOTM Richard Eckersley – 6.5
What else is there to say about Richard Eckersley? Lose or draw, he is usually one of Toronto’s best players. Eckersley was TFC’s Man of the Match against Santos, with his contributions being the main reason that the final score line was respectable.
Adrian Cann – 5
Overall, a decent game by Cann. The veteran International is a player who knows both his strengths and his limitations and plays the game accordingly.
Ashtone Morgan – 5.5
A mature performance by the sophomore left back. With Santos clearly presenting themselves as a team capable of punishing Toronto if they had left the back door open, Morgan did not get forward as much as he usually does, which was quite smart and showed his growth as a defender.
Reggie Lambe – 5.5
Lambe was Toronto’s best player in the opening half when the Reds looked they had a real shot of making a game of it. Out of all of the players who have been brought to Toronto since last offseason, the Bermuda International has shown the most potential as a starting quality MLS player, with both the athleticism and technical ability to excel in the North American top flight.
Aaron Maund – 5
Another match in which Maund was pretty solid overall and played a simple, conservative game that played to his strengths. While he is obviously far off from be christened the Amerikanischen Lutscher, the 22 year has shown just enough in recent weeks to suggest that he might be worth keeping around for next year as a developmental player.
Terry Dunfield – 5.5
One of the few players on Toronto who has consistently shown up and given his all during TFC’s 13 game winless streak. Not a flashy or Earth shattering performance, but a solid two way game in which Dunfield played his part in the Reds not being embarrassed by a superior and more talented opponent.
Eric Avila – 5.5
The resurgent play of Eric Avila continued against Santos, as the former FC Dallas midfielder was again one of Toronto’s most lively players on the night. It will be interesting to see how Avila does against Columbus and whether or not he is back with Toronto FC in 2013.
Luis Silva – 4
Another match in which Silva was not shockingly bad, but in which he was basically anonymous and had almost no influence on the game. The kid clearly has talent and has showed plenty of promise this season, but lately he has been delivering worse performances than those that apparently made Eric Avila the polar opposite of the apple of Paul Mariner’s eye. Silva does not deserve to play on Sunday in TFC’s final against Columbus, but, realistically, Mariner’s lack of suitable replacements will probably mean that he starts.
Ryan Johnson – 4
When Toronto vanquished the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Champions League back in March, many TFC supporters were probably wondering what the San Jose Earthquakes had been on when they gave up on Ryan Johnson and shipped him to the Reds. Eight months later, those same Toronto FC fans are probably wondering just what happened to turn the Jamaican International into something akin to Chad Barrett 2.0. Johnson displayed his usual work ethic against Santos and got into excellent positions to score. Unfortunately, his lack of finishing was shocking once again, as his early misses basically sealed the deal in terms of any thoughts of Toronto pushing for the big win that they needed last night.