No one is going to remember anything positive that Toronto FC did in Saturday's match against the Houston Dynamo a couple of weeks from now, which is unfortunate. Houston's late equalizer and a very questionable sending off overshadowed that happened in the 62 minutes leading up to Jermaine Taylor seeing red, and that something was both important and kind of cool.
Toronto FC played the best soccer that they've played in a couple of years on Saturday afternoon, and might have earned a 1-0 win (or better) without the assistance of referee Drew Fischer. Instead, they appeared to be the beneficiaries of a bad call for a half-hour, then gave up an equalizer to end the game in all too familiar heartbreaking fashion. The Dynamo might see their 1-1 draw as justice after Taylor's unjust ejection, but TFC fans will probably see it as two points stolen away from their team.
The opening minutes of the game were truly dominated by TFC, who were unlucky not to score on multiple occasions. Houston settled in defensively around the half-hour mark, but they were pretty clearly second best as the Reds hit the woodwork twice. In Houston's defense, they seemed a bit unsettled by an injury to Adam Moffat that necessitated his removal from the game for Warren Creavalle, but the bulk of TFC's first half chances came before Moffat's injury.
Toronto's goal came in the 58th minute, at the end of a big scramble that probably never should have resulted in a goal. The Houston defense failed to clear on multiple occasions, allowing Jeremy Hall to find a shooting lane from about 25 yards. His low shot beat Tally Hall to the far post, and it looked like a tough break for Hall live. However, replays from behind the goal showed that, despite the high volume of traffic in front of the goal, Hall had a clear view of the ball from the moment of the shot by Hall and was very slow to react.
With TFC carrying all of the momentum, they hardly needed the help of a favorable call, but the sending off of Taylor certainly looked like a blessing at the time He was whistled for contact to the face of Robert Earnshaw, who certainly did his best to sell the foul. The contact appeared inadvertant and while Taylor was the last man, the infraction occurred 50 yards from goal, with the ball running away from the two players and Hall well positioned to rush out of his box. Taylor's foul didn't constitute violent conduct or denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, but Fischer saw the incident differently and sent him off.
From then until stoppage time, it was all TFC. Earnshaw hit the woodwork for the second time in the game not long after the sending off and could have had a hat trick on the night. His direct runs off the ball and combination play with his fellow attackers -- specifically Justin Braun -- was excellent all night. Unlucky not to have a goal or an assist to his name, Earnshaw was substituted off for Andrew Wiedeman in the 87th minute. TFC would never find another goal, which they would come to regret.
Unfortunately, the game ended in a trainwreck for the home side. Fullback Logan Emory had to leave due to an injury, and if he's unable to play next week, TFC could be without four fullbacks. Richard Eckersley and Darrell Russell are already out injured, while Ashtone Morgan is suspended. As bad as that was, things quickly got worse.
On a stoppage time corner, with nearly the last touch of the game, Creavalle netted an equalizer for Houston. Andrew Driver delivered an in-swinging ball to the center of the box for Ricardo Clark, who nodded on. Darren O'Dea had fallen asleep and let Creavalle get to the ball, then flick backwards into the back of the net to steal a point for the Dynamo.