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30.11.2019 02:11
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TORONTO - As Toronto FC prepares for a challenging four-game road trip, manager Ryan Nelsen and his braintrust face some troubling questions. Make no mistake, the big picture remains positive. Toronto (7-6-5) is headed for its best ever season and first trip to the playoffs. The roster and team culture have been smartly remade. But injuries and suspensions have made it difficult to find the right mix of pieces to complete the puzzle. And mentally, Toronto has yet to show that it can kill off a game on a regular basis when it has its foot on the other teams neck. The officiating stole many of the headlines in Saturdays 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City, but the inability to finish and some sloppy defending cost Toronto more than the decision-making of referee Ted Unkel. "Two very soft goals and we havent got our balance right yet in that midfield," said Nelsen. "Maybe (we were) missing a couple of key players, but our balance wasnt right on the two goals. We were spectators. In a time when we had to be urgent and our intensity had to be focused, we just hoped somebody would do their job and that was unfortunate." Sadly soft goals have been a common theme of late, with the backline losing its shape and getting punished. Toronto was missing star striker Jermain Defoe (suspension), captain/centre back Steven Caldwell and right back Mark Bloom (knee) against the MLS champions. Defoe will be back when Toronto kicks off its road trip against D.C. United (10-5-4) but Toronto will be without centre back Doneil Henry on Wednesday due to accumulation of yellow cards. Toronto then plays at Montreal, Columbus and Kansas City. Torontos defenders were all over the place on Kansas Citys goals (in the 48th minute by Graham Zusi and 80th by former TFC midfielder Jacob Peterson). Brazilian winger Jackson had opened the scoring for Toronto in the 16th minute. Kansas City players flooded into the penalty box on the first goal by the visitors, with the ball eventually ricocheting back to Zusi who curled it into the top of the goal with Joe Bendik stranded out of position. On the second, Toronto was unable to defend a deflected cross and Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer flicked the ball back to Peterson, who beat Bendik from close range. Nelsen complained some of his players had settled for spots that would have worked out well had their teammates won the ball back. But they did not. "They were some guys that were spectating and getting into nice comfortable position but werent influencing the game, they werent helping out their teammates," he said. "Thats a hardness that we lost, I think," he added, "(and) that we need to get back." Nelsen played a midfield of Jackson, Michael Bradley, Collen Warner and Dominic Oduro against Kansas City, Oduro terrorized the KC defence and Jackson, making a terrific run to take advantage of a marvellous Oduro pass that split the defence, scored one goal and could have had three on the night. But the Brazilian winger was one player who seemed to be lying in wait for a possible counter-attack on one of the Kansas City goals. And Oduros mind set is offence not defence. On a micro level, Nelsens frustration Saturday was that his team got it right for most of the game other than two lapses of concentration. On a larger level, he sees a good team unable yet to take the final step to becoming a very good one. "But this is why its such a great game," he said. "Nothing is given to you here, is it. Youve got to keep working, take little steps, little steps, little steps and eventually these results will go your way and youll learn from your mistakes. "Weve got some young guys, we had a couple of young players out in the backline. Weve still got some new players coming into the team. I feel bad for the guys, because we are very close." Nelsen saw plenty of positives, which perhaps made the loss more upsetting. "Our transition was just brilliant today. We absolutely destroyed them today on it." The pace of Oduro and Jackson, coupled with fine passing from Bradley and others did rip Kansas City apart repeatedly. "The bottom line is that on too many days were the team not coming away with points," said Bradley. "Over the course of a season, these games add up and mean that youre not in the position we should be. So weve to take a long hard look at ourselves at the moment and really find a way to translate at times good play and dominating games and turn that into points and wins." The league will no doubt review Saturdays officiating and the comments that followed. "Its by no means an excuse, it was the same for both teams, but the referee was absolutely awful," Bradley said after carefully choosing his words. "The people at the MLS (head) office in New York, when they talk about wanting to improve the league, the first thing that needs to be improved is the refereeing, bottom line. "That shouldnt come across as sour grapes because thats just the reality. And it was bad for both teams and Im sure theyre sitting in their locker-room saying the same thing to themselves but theyve got three points with them and that certainly makes it a little easier to swallow." Unkel issued eight yellow cards, including five to Toronto. Kansas City was reduced to 10 men in the 75th minute when captain/defender Matt Besler got a second yellow. Foremost on Torontos list of complaints was a no-call in the 23rd minute when Unkel waved play on after Kansas City defender Aurelien Collin, chasing Brazilian striker Gilberto after a deft through ball from Bradley, appeared to clip the Brazilians leg. Gilberto, who had a clear path on goal, went down and Bradley went after the referee imploring for a call, which should have garnered Collin a red card. The French defender went unpunished and Toronto got the first four yellows of the night. "Collin should have been sent off. I mean an under-12 ref can pick that one," Nelsen said with disgust. "Thats pretty basic." Kansas City coach Peter Vermes had a different view of the officiating. "I thought the referee did a good job tonight, that is my personal opinion," he said. "I dont think it was an easy game to ref. "I really liked his management of the game, the things that you can control the ball going out of bounds and the guy trying to steal 15 yards. Those are the things that drive us nuts as coaches, the little calls you might miss or might get, but those things he did a good job of and kept the game going on both sides. Toronto hit the woodwork twice in the first half. Nike Air Max 270 Femme Pas Chere . - A retired Indiana school principal who was NASCAR star Jeff Gordons drivers education teacher was killed with his wife in a Tennessee crash while returning from watching Gordon race. Nike Air Max 97 Ultra Pas Cher Vente . Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton and Kole Calhoun all homered to help the Los Angeles Angels get their first win of the season with an 11-1 rout of the Houston Astros. came December.Three straight losses, including a crushing 27-24 defeat to Washington (4-11) on Saturday, has the Eagles (9-6) on the brink of playoff elimination. Air Max 97 Off White Pas Cher . "I dont know where we would be without him," McClendon said. "Hes done a tremendous job for us and (Wednesday) was no different." Logan Morrison drove in two runs in Seattles big sixth inning, Young pitched seven strong innings and the Mariners beat the Houston Astros 5-2 to complete a three-game sweep. Air Max 97 Off White Outlet . -- The NFL Players Association wants to determine if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers leaked information about quarterback Josh Freeman being in the NFLs substance abuse program.TORONTO – This might be the worst stretch of Jonathan Berniers brief and mostly impressive career as a Maple Leaf. Over his last 10 starts Bernier holds an unflattering .891 save percentage, both he and his teammates sliding in a stretch that looks like it will cost the club yet another playoff berth. Bernier feels like hes just been off by the slightest margin, not quite awful, just not good enough to rescue his team from the failure of 14 defeats in 17 games. You just need that one extra save, he said. I dont feel like my game has been that bad, I just need to make that one extra big save to keep the team in it. Though sputtering recently, Bernier is one of the few solid foundations of a Toronto team that once again finds itself in transition, this time under the direction of Brendan Shanahan. Big, looming and difficult questions face Shanahan and his front office team in the coming offseason, the 26-year-old among them. Bernier is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, due a large and potentially long raise with his second NHL club. To date there have been no contract talks between the team and their No. 1 goaltender, according to Bernier and later confirmed by his agent, Pat Brisson. If they come up to my agent and they want to start talking Im sure well [talk], Bernier told following the teams first practice after the All-Star break. Bernier called it a shock to see former teammate and fellow Cup champion Mike Richards placed on waivers by the L.A. Kings Monday and that in some ways is the delicate balance clubs face when locking up core players for the long-term. Theres plenty of risk involved, one thats perhaps different with starting goaltenders, whose performance tends to fluctuate from year to year. Jonathan Quick, for example, excelled with a .929 save percentage in the 2011-12 regular season, only to tumble to .902 in the lockout-shortened 2013. But the Kings knew they had their guy in goal – based largely on two sensational playoff runs – and felt fine parting with Bernier in a deal with Toronto. Do the Leafs believe theyve got such a piece in Bernier? Up until and even including his recent struggles, Berniers numbers look solid, if not quite near the superb highs of his first season in Toronto and more specifically, his first three months as a Leaf – in which he owned a .930 save percentage. Bernier sits 19th amongst NHL starters with a .914 save percentage this season – tied with Ben Bishop – and 19th with a .922 even-strength save percentage – tied with Marc-Andre Fleury. Since the start of the 2013-14 season, he sits 12th among his peers with a .919 save percentage, just a touch behind Cory Schneider and a touch ahead of Corey Crawford. Signs point to the former first round pick being an above average goaltender, if not quite on the same level of Henrik Lundqvist or Carey Price. Which begs the question with restricted free agency lying ahead: what is Bernier worth to the Leafs? How much and for how long will the Leafs commit to their No. 1, who has made exactly 82 starts as a Leaf? Bernier signed for two years at an annual cap hit of $2.9 million when he landed with the club in the summer of 2013.dddddddddddd That number promises to balloon come the summer months. Last year at about this time, Colorado re-signed Semyon Varlamov for five years at an annual cap hit of $5.9 million. Like Bernier, Varlamov was due to be a restricted free agent the following summer and like Bernier, in line for his third NHL contract. He was also a first-round pick whose career numbers lined up comparably to Bernier at similar points of their respective careers. (Varlamov held a .912 save percentage after his first 147 games in the league, a smidge below Bernier, who owns a .917 mark through his first 151 games played.) Have the Leafs seen enough to commit to such term and money (perhaps more in both cases) for Bernier? The question is two-fold, both for Bernier and the team. A long-term deal, say in the neighbourhood of 5-7 years, offers security for Bernier and certainty for the Leafs at a position thats wobbled in Toronto since the days of Ed Belfour. The risk is obvious to the team though. If Berniers performance proves to be only average or just a smidge above it they could get stuck paying an inflated fare for the long haul. Less obvious is the risk to such a deal for the player. Bernier gets security by joining up with the club long-term, but risks not only the cap rising higher in the years that follow, but his performance advancing with age, both of which could mean more money down the line. Signing a short-term deal rather, say one that takes him to age 30, means Bernier could cash in the middle of his prime at a time when the cap could be much higher than the $71 million or so numbers that have been speculated in recent weeks. A backup for most of his NHL career, Schneider opted for the long-term route shortly after he landed in New Jersey. He signed for seven years and $42 million one year after he was plucked from Vancouver. Sergei Bobrovsky, meanwhile, went the shorter-term (but still rich) route. He signed for four years and nearly $30 million earlier this month, a free agent-to-be in his early 30s and in line to cash in again down the line. Complicating matters for the Leafs and perhaps reason for Berniers camp to wait until the summer to start negotiations, is the clubs uncertain cap future. The Leafs project to have limited cap space for the 2015-16 campaign with Nazem Kadri (restricted free agent) and perhaps Cody Franson (unrestricted free agent) still to be signed. That pressure could be alleviated with a summertime trade or two and could conceivably free up more money for Bernier, who turns 27 in August. Bernier certainly takes notice when fellow goaltenders sign – such as Schneider, Bobrovsky – but he tries to keep thoughts of his own deal to a minimum. This is the first time, mind you, that hes held some degree of sway, even leverage in a contract negotiation, since he joined the league in 2007. Its easy to let it creep in a little bit, Bernier says. [But] to me its really one year at a time, one day at a time. I really want to make a big difference for this team and thats really what I focus on. I want to make the playoffs and then well talk in the summer and then well see whats the plan. ' ' '

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