Another late goal, and more disappointment for Toronto FC.
And now coach Ryan Nelsen is calling on someone to make sure it won’t happen again.
Tim Cahill scored twice, including a header in the 89th minute, that gave the New York Red Bulls a 2-1 victory over Toronto on Saturday — a loss that ended TFC’s unbeaten streak at home and marked the fourth time in five games Toronto had conceded a goal in the final three or four minutes of a match.
“It’s not a jinx, it’s not a hoax or anything like that, we need personalities to go and clear the ball, and win the ball. . . strong personalities who want it in the back,” Nelsen said. “Every successful team in the world has one or two defenders that the ball seems to be like a magnet to their head because they want it so much.”
Jonathan Osorio scored the lone goal for Toronto (1-3-4), which had coughed up tying goals — in injury time — to Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Houston prior to Saturday’s loss.
A few minutes after the final whistle of what Nelsen called the team’s worst performance this season, the coach said it’s about time somebody on Toronto’s back line step up and “take that mantle.
“That’s what successful teams do,” the rookie coach said. “If they want to be good and they want to go on, they need to take responsibility, not talk about it, not gesture. Actually do it through actions.”
Asked when players might stop getting opportunities, the coach said “Very soon.”
“This is seven points we’ve thrown away now. Would have put us at 14, which would put us in a really nice spot. Again, these guys have got to want to be good, they’ve got to want responsibility. Winning is hard, it’s a responsibility, and guys have got to understand they’ve got to take it.”
Cahill got New York (4-4-2) on the scoreboard in the 39th minute with a goal set up by crafty striker Thierry Henry. The former French star had a beautiful dummy on a pass from Roy Miller, letting the ball roll onto an open Cahill, who slotted it from the centre of the box past Toronto ‘keeper Joe Bendik.
Cahill’s header and heartbreaker of a second goal came off a cross from Henry, and sent the 20,009 fans at BMO Field home disappointed once again.
Osorio’s goal in the 83rd minute had fans briefly hoping for a single point at least. Ryan Richter played the ball back to Osorio, who paused to tee up a lovely high shot that sailed over New York ’keeper Luis Robles and glanced off the crossbar and in the net.
But it was different day-same story for Toronto, who coughed up numerous late goals last season as well.
“It’s becoming a theme,” said Toronto defender Darren O’Dea. “And it can’t. It needs to be put right.”
O’Dea said nobody is pointing fingers in the locker-room yet.
“We’re very good like that, we stick together as a team,” he said. “Maybe it’s time we really analyze where things are going wrong, because we can’t just keep putting it to ‘just another one,’ ’it won’t happen again sort of thing.’ It’s happening.”
O’Dea had said those words just a week earlier, vowing after Toronto’s 1-1 draw with Houston Dynamo, that it wouldn’t happen again.
Still, the Irish defender and team captain was one of the bright spots on an afternoon of very few for Toronto, winning most 50-50 balls that came his way.
The same couldn’t be said for the rest of Toronto’s back line, which was missing Richard Eckersley, Logan Emory and Darel Russell to injury. Service out of the back routinely missed its mark, and defending on Cahill’s two goals was poor.
“It was a disappointing performance from the first minute to the 90th,” Nelsen said. “It was really a shame because the guys had been doing well, we were moving forward.”
Asked how much of the responsibility is his, the coach said “I take all of it. Total responsibility. I’ll never accuse players of anything, they’re trying their hardest, I feel really bad for them. The responsibility lies with me.”
Toronto could create little in the midfield, especially in a lacklustre first half, although Nelsen singled out Jeremy Hall as having a strong game.
Help is hopefully on its way as the team formally introduced young Argentine midfielder Matias Laba before kickoff. The 21-year-old, who played three seasons for Argentinos Juniors, is expected to make his debut for Toronto on Wednesday against the Impact in Montreal in the second Canadian championship game.
Nelsen said he believes Hall and Laba will make for a strong midfield presence.
The club paid one of the top transfer fees in Major League Soccer — reported to be between $1.3 and $1.5 million — for the Young Designated Player, but club president and GM Kevin Payne said the midfielder is up to the expectations that come with his hefty price tag.
“I think Matias is a very confident young man and a very confident player and I don’t think it will affect him at all that he had a larger than normal transfer fee associated with him,” said Payne.
“Pressure on us I suppose, but we’re pretty confident that we made a good choice here.”
Toronto did have a couple other scoring chances Saturday, outshooting the visitors 13-10. Toronto had four shots on target to New York’s three. Their first chance came off a long shot from Robert Earnshaw that sailed high of the net. Reggie Lambe launched a long shot over the bar in the 59th.
Earnshaw had an excellent chance in the 70th, but fired a shot from close in right to Robles.