TORONTO — In a wild rant, Toronto FC coach John Carver tore into himself, his players and the officials after his soccer team lost its first game at home this year against a lower-level Canadian foe on Tuesday.
Following a 1-0 loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps of the second-tier United Soccer Leagues in a chippy Nutrilite Canadian Championship game before a crowd of 18,938 at BMO Field, the coach of Canada's lone Major League Soccer team didn't mince words when asked about the Canada Day contest.
"I'll take full responsibility because I picked the team and I sent the team out there in the first (half)," said Carver, whose team gave up a goal on a controversial penalty kick by Martin Nash in the 37th minute and then failed to score on numerous top-notch chances in the second half. "The team that went out there in the first half didn't perform to the level I want . . . They couldn't pass the ball, there was no communication, there was nothing. It was lifeless, it was lacklustre. I'll take full responsibility for that because at halftime I (made three substitutions), and it was like night and day."
But while Carver pointed the finger at himself for the shoddy first-half effort, he didn't let the players or officials off the hook after TFC dropped to 1-1 in the three-team round-robin tournament. The USL's Montreal Impact lead the way at 2-1, while the Whitecaps are 1-2.
"The way it looked to me is that we could just go out there and go through the motions," said Carver, whose team is 5-0-3 at home in MLS play this year. "Nobody is safe at this football club. They've got to realize that. If they get complacent, I can cancel their contract tomorrow."
Carver tried to bite his tongue when asked about the refereeing, but couldn't resist making his voice heard when questioned about referee Steve Depiero's decision to award a penalty kick to Nash after TFC captain Jim Brennan was called for obstruction on a falling Jeff Clarke away from the ball.
"About 1945," Carver said when asked the last time he had seen a similar call.
Brennan, who was suspended for the next Canadian Championship match in Vancouver on July 9 after receiving a second yellow card in as many games for a shoving match with Nash early in the first half, wasn't nearly as shy about discussing the big call.
"He went down awfully easy," Brennan said. "I was marking him, he was grabbing my arm and he's falling down and that's why I was frustrated because the way he went down. I don't think it was a penalty at all, I don't think anybody thought it was a penalty. We end up losing 1-0 because of a bad goal."
However, no one can dispute Vancouver didn't deserve an edge after dominating the first half.
TFC came on in a big way after Carver replaced midfielders Rohan Ricketts, Laurent Robert and forward Danny Dichio with Jarrod Smith, Julius James and Jeff Cunningham at halftime. But Vancouver goalie Jay Nolly stood tall, making several highlight-reel diving stops.
"I was in MLS for three years and . . . I was excited to see those guys again," Nolly said. "It's always a challenge. Anytime you're taking a step up and playing a Toronto or MLS team or an exhibition against someone from overseas, it's fun, it's exciting and it's a challenge. You just test yourself and your team to see how well you can do."
Nolly also got lucky when Smith hit the crossbar and when Cunningham was ruled offside on a goal in the 81st minute. Cunningham went into the crowd to celebrate, not knowing it was called off.
"It was a very bad call," he said. "Some of the lads saw it on the TV and I was definitely on(side). The officiating decided the game."
The last word went to Carver, who actually apologized for a fan getting booted out of the stadium after giving an earful to the coach.
"He was right to have a go at me because I picked that team that played in the first half," said Carver, who promised personnel changes. "He was ejected from the ground and that was wrong. I'd like to meet the fan. I want him to come and see me. I'll speak to him and I'll make sure he's okay."
Notes: After Toronto's match in Vancouver, the series concludes when TFC plays host to Montreal on July 22. The tournament champion will represent Canada in the CONCACAF Champions League and play the Nicaraguan champion in a home-and-away series, beginning Aug. 27. Toronto FC plays an exhibition game against Pachuca of Mexico Saturday at BMO Field and then heads to Vancouver before returning to league competition July 12 in Chicago against the Fire . . . The Whitecaps resume league play Saturday in Rochester against the Rhinos . . . One-time TFC goalie Srdjan Djekanovic, who made eight appearances for Toronto last season, was the backup for Vancouver on Tuesday . . . Vancouver's Ivory Coast-born striker Charles Gbeke, acquired in a trade with Montreal this week, replaced Sebrango in the 76th minute.