‘Koef’ ends Toronto FC’s losing streak
TORONTO, Ont. ● Danny Koevermans scored in the 88th minute to end Toronto FC’s losing streak with a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union in MLS play Saturday in Toronto.
Nick Soolsma outmuscled a Union defender in the box and fed the ball to Koevermans at the near post. The big Dutch striker’s first attempt bounced off goalie Chris Konopka but he made no mistake with the second try.
Toronto (1-9-0) finally ends its record-breaking string of losses to start the season and crawls a little closer to Philadelphia (2-7-2), the second-worst team in the league.
Both teams have been offensively challenged , combining for just 15 goals prior to Saturday. And early on they showed why — Philadelphia’s initial idea on offence was to hoof the ball down the field while Toronto made chances and then flubbed them.
Toronto goalie Milos Kocic was rarely pressed into action Saturday before an announced crowd of 18,227 on a sunny afternoon at BMO Field. At the other end, Konopka saw plenty of action and was up to everything Toronto threw at him until Koevermans.
The Dutch designated player came on in the 62nd minute, his third substitute appearances in four games since returning from a groin injury.
The home side came into the game buoyed by a midweek win over the Vancouver Whitecaps that netted it a fourth straight Voyageurs Cup as Canadian champion.
A cup contender — Toronto is 3-1-4 in combined CONCACAF Champions League and Amway Canadian Championship play this season — Toronto has floundered in the league.
Toronto now has a three-week break due to the next round of World Cup qualifiers. It returns to tough away games, in Kansas City on June 16 and Houston on June 20.
Manager Aron Winter inserted rookie Luis Silva in Saturday’s lineup in place of the injured Eric Avila.
Philadelphia was hurting in goal with Zac MacMath (concussion symptoms) and Chase Harrison (ankle sprain) both out.
Things go so bad that Union coach Peter Nowak had his goalies wear protective headgear in training this week to avoid further injury.
It was the six-foot-five Konopka’s first start of the season — and only his third in MLS. Philadelphia had emergency league reserve ‘keeper Brian Rowe on the bench. Konopka has also played that role — have goalie gloves, will travel — in the past.
Konopka proved a worthy replacement in the eighth minute when he stopped a Reggie Lambe blast from close range after Torsten Frings caught the Union napping with a quick free kick. The rebound bounced back to Lambe who, while at an acute angle, somehow drove the ball across the open goal.
In the 10th, Ryan Johnson also missed the target after getting the ball a smidgen late from Lambe. The Jamaican international missed again in the 14th, firing a left-footed shot wide after the ball dropped at his feet from a corner.
Johnson has played every minute in the league this season but has not scored since the season opener in Seattle on March 17.
As the half wore on, Philadelphia began to string some passes together and mount a few forays.
Konopka came to the rescue in the 36th, parrying away a Toronto cross that just went over Johnson’s head before Frings could lay a boot to it.
Diminutive Toronto forward Joao Plata spent most of the half on his back or rolling in apparent pain after being bodied to the ground by a Philadelphia defender.
Philadelphia had to mount some desperate defence late in the half.
Frings kicked the post in frustration in the 40th after a Philadelphia defender managed to get a boot to his pass across goal to Plata after the former German international took a long throw from Jeremy Hall.
Defender Adrian Cann’s header off a Frings free kick went just wide in the 45th minute.
The first-half ledger for Toronto read nine shots on goal and just one on target. Philadelphia misfired on both of its attempts.
That changed in the 50th when Union midfielder Michael Farfan hit the crossbar with a swerving shot — with goalie Milos Kocic beaten — from well outside the penalty box.
Beaten for pace by a Philadelphia attacker, teenage Toronto defender Doneil Henry made a key tackle in the 57th to stop a breakaway.
Konopka completely missed a corner in the 63rd leaving the goal undefended but Toronto was unable to convert. He stopped a Henry header on the subsequent corner.
The reserve goalie did what he needed to in the 81st when he stopped a Frings chip.