And that’s why they don’t play the game on paper…

Well, that sucked. It’s very rare that Toronto FC is capable of clearly overpowering a team and making them look laughably inferior, yet that was the case tonight against the Puerto Rico Islanders. But — and stop me if you’ve heard this one before — they were ultimately undone by their inability to finish, and conceded a critical goal against the run of play. This being a home-and-away, with the Islanders holding the critical away-goal advantage, coupled with TFC’s shit-tastic road-playing abilities, a hectic schedule, the stifling island heat and a rash of injuries, and it looks like Toronto’s run in the CONCACAF Champions League may be a short one.

Then again, no one thought they’d go into Montreal and win by four goals either…

Sure, Puerto Rico’s not going to field their B-team (the squad they fielded tonight was their A-team???) as the Impact did, but Toronto is still clearly the superior squad, so a positive result is not out of the question. While I’m sure most USL fans have the good sense to take this game for what it was, there are probably a few crayon-eating dimwits among them who’ll hold up this undeserved 1-0 victory by Puerto Rico as further evidence that USL-1 and MLS are on par with one another. Frankly, I’m not going to wade into the whole MLS v.s. USL debate… Duane‘s got that pretty well covered, and I’m sure he’ll be feeling the heat from the aforementioned crayon-eaters in the aftermath of this debacle.

What I will say is that you can’t accuse Chris Cummins of not taking the competition seriously. Starting Emmanuel Gomez over Marco Velez may have raised a few eyebrows, but his performance was admirable. Had this been a vital league game, we may have seen Adrian Serioux out on the pitch (though giving him a rest tonight was understandable, considering the knocks he’s been piling up). Danny Dichio might have been subbed into the game a little earlier (if you’re going to play route one to try and break down a bunker, you could probably use your giant bulldozer of a striker for more than eight minutes).

But in all, this was a game they were clearly attempting to win. They had possession, they got some good bounces, took an awful lot of giveaways, and had a wheelbarrow full of set pieces to work with… but it’s the touch that puts the ball in the net that counts. And that’s the one thing they didn’t have.

Perhaps in the return leg, Dwayne DeRosario will once again take the team on his back and turn in a Herculean effort to drag them into the next round. Plus, the absence of Amado Guevara can’t be underestimated, and if he returns in the PR game, his impact will surely be felt (though Sam Cronin was playing a much more attacking role tonight than we’re accustomed to seeing… a temporary solution, or a sign of things to come?)

So, all hope is not yet lost, TFC faithful. Of course, if they drop their league game against New England on Saturday, and fail to get what they need against Puerto Rico next week… well, then all hope may actually be lost for 2009.

Oh well, at least we’ll still have the honour of watching the Real Madrid reserve squad prance around on the temporary grass at BMO Field… which would be about as comforting as eating rhubarb pie after swallowing a cyanide capsule.

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