Getting results in the big games often comes down to the minor details. Unfortunately for Toronto FC , such details proved fateful in their key CONCACAF Champions League match-up against Real Salt Lake at BMO field on Tuesday night.
TFC defender Maxim Usanov gave away a careless free kick on the edge of the penalty area, allowing Javier Morales to step up and score a terrific equalizing goal for Real Salt Lake. The final 1-1 score was enough for RSL to qualify for the quarter-final stage of the competition, while TFC will now have to wait another year.
It was a mixed night for TFC head coach Nick Dasovic.
On the one hand, he had his tactics spot on against the team from Utah. Knowing RSL would insist on building up play at all costs with the tendency to be unbalanced defensively when they attacked in numbers, TFC were set up perfectly for the counter attack which paid dividends midway through the first half.
Jacob Peterson scored a terrific goal courtesy of a counter attack play started from a razor sharp throw by TFC goalkeeper Jon Conway. Peterson's excellent solo finish gave Toronto a deserved 1-0 lead.
On the other side of what turned out to be a disappointing night for Dasovic, his decision to keep Dwayne DeRosario as TFC captain has to be viewed as a very weak decision by the rookie head coach as it merely empowers the wrong set of values at such a critical juncture of the season. It's not about heaping more scorn on TFC's best player at this stage, it's about recognizing when a coach or manager makes a decision based on being popular with a player or players instead of doing what is the right thing to do.
It is one more indication of the immature soccer industry that exists in Canada from top to bottom.
Nevertheless, Dasovic will, like all coaches, live and die by his decisions.
On the night TFC were good value for the tie and they should really have held on for the win as RSL never looked like breaking down an impressive TFC back line, especially with the addition of regular centre back Nana Attakora.
The TFC midfield was busy, determined, and disciplined, but not on the same technical level as RSL. On a night when difficult windy conditions played a part, it was less of a burden.
In the end it was Usanov's clumsy challenge at such a crucial time which made the difference as Morales punished the error clinically.
Toronto FC will be desperately disappointed they could not hang on to their 1-0 lead as a win would have been a life line for the club and the team as a whole. It was the confidence booster they needed.
It now leaves the season, which showed so much promise at one stage, in complete tatters as they face elimination from MLS playoff contention Saturday in Seattle.
The echoes of a half empty BMO field said it all.