Toronto FC is unbeaten in four games with three clean sheets. But what normally would be cause for celebration comes with a dose of frustration.
Coach Greg Vanney saw goalkeeper Clint Irwin limp off late in the first half and his offence unable to pierce a resilient Sporting Kansas City in a 0-0 tie Friday in a battle of unbeaten MLS teams.
Toronto (1-0-3) had more chances on a wet, windy night â€” with temperatures around four degrees Celsius at kickoff â€” but was unable to finish off a resilient Kansas City side before a BMO Field crowd of 27,909.
Kansas City (1-0-3) is now unbeaten in its last eight games against Toronto.
“It’s a frustrating night because it’s one where you want to take three points, for many reasons,” said Vanney.
“We had some good moments in this game and we had some moments that we’ve got to clean up,” he added.
Sebastian Giovinco, yet to score this season, almost broke the deadlock in the 59th minute but his free kick hit the crossbar. The Italian star deserved a goal, deftly pulling the Toronto strings as the game wore on.
Kansas City showed its teeth with a couple of good chances in the second half that were stopped by substitute ‘keeper Alex Bono.
The visitors’ mix of pressing and compact defending gave Toronto some early problems.
“It was definitely part of our plan, keep (Michael) Bradley off the ball and then at the same time limit the space that Giovinco had,” said coach Peter Vermes.
Toronto eventually began to make inroads on the Kansas City defence. For a while, however, the home side seemed unable to find a way into the other half with centre backs reduced to low-percentage long-range pass attempts. Giovinco started coming back deeper in an attempt to kick-start the attack.
Toronto finished with 13 shots, only two of which were on target. Kansas City had 15 shots (five on target).
Bradley saw positives in that Toronto is proving hard to beat.
“We played against a good team tonight â€” a team that was very committed to coming in here and doing anything they could to come away with a point,” he said. “And on the night we still had a bunch of big chances. We had a good number of close to 100-per-cent chances.”
But he suggested a more adventurous approach may be needed.
“While we can’t take stupid risk, in the right moments we still have to have a little more courage. Across the board we have to be a little braver to make certain types of play, to play certain types of passes, knowing that when those types of plays come together they are what help us break a team like this down.
“Look, it’s early in the season. It’s been as always a little bit of a choppy start â€” three away games, an international break, first game at home â€” and we still feel very good about where we are, where we’re going and the progress we continue to make.”
The connection between Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and playmaker Victor Vazquez is very much a work in progress, given their little playing time together. Altidore, given a reduced role after his international duty, only played the last 28 minutes Friday.
Canadian wingback Raheem Edwards, replacing Justin Morrow (heel), did not look out of place in his first MLS start.
But there was frustration for midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who did some fine buildup work to get into a scoring position only to misfire on several occasions.
Osorio took to Twitter after the game to thank the fans for the evening’s atmosphere and “to apologize to all of you for my misses today.”
And there will be concern over Irwin, who went down clutching his knee in the 37th minute when his left foot appeared to get stuck in the turf as he came out to make a save. Irwin, who was able to walk off gingerly, is slated to undergo an MRI Saturday.
Bono, who showed last year in Irwin’s injury absence that he can handle No. 1 duties, was given the start last time out in Vancouver as a chance to get some minutes. He may get another extended run.
Kansas City was without influential midfielder Benny Feilhaber with a thigh strain ending a string of 22 straight regular-season starts. He remains the only SKC player to score this season â€” their other score was an own goal.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press