This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Toronto FC, the club that committed close to nine figures on players this offseason, losing 4-2 to a Brazilian under-23 side.
The Reds were rocked by Fluminense on Saturday in their final preseason match in Orlando, bringing their stay in central Florida to an unspectacular close.
Afterward, some supporters elevated their concerns to a dull roar. Others said it’s time to panic, despite the fact TFC started a team half-full of bench players and reserves.
Jermain Defoe still isn’t present. Toronto’s other attacking Designated Player, Gilberto, remains on the treatment table with a hip flexor injury two weeks out from the club’s MLS opener.
Head coach Ryan Nelsen also elected to rest Bradley Orr, Justin Morrow, Jonathan Osorio and Julio Cesar — four big components to this season’s roster.
Those were Saturday’s excuses. They were legit.
But mere weeks away from the season, the concerns are clearly defined: After TFC’s starting lineup, there isn’t much else.
At the back, the Reds lack depth. Ashtone Morgan and Jeremy Hall were exposed throughout Saturday’s match, especially on Fluminense’s second-half winner and insurance goal.
Hall’s reckless tackle led to Matheus Carvalho’s converted penalty in the 53rd minute before lax marking between he and Doneil Henry saw Roberto double the Brazilians’ lead off a cross in the 56th.
In midfield, provided a chance to impress in place of Osorio Saturday afternoon, Kyle Bekker didn’t do enough despite playing a tidy diagonal that led to Dwayne De Rosario levelling the score at 2-2 before halftime.
Bekker’s shortcomings are still evident when he doesn’t have the ball. In a league that prides itself on physicality and speed, TFC’s top brass could run into problems when Michael Bradley inevitably joins the U.S. national team this summer in Brazil.
If Defoe (England) joins his American teammate at this year’s World Cup, the Reds could run into massive problems up front as well, especially with Bright Dike (Achilles) set to miss the entire season.
The best case scenario for the Reds? Everyone stays healthy, Defoe is left off Roy Hodgson’s England squad and TFC puts out a close-to-identical starting lineup every time out.
But if Nelsen’s forced to reach far down his bench, supporters will see more of what they witnessed throughout Toronto’s four preseason exhibitions in Orlando: mediocrity, if not worse.
It led to Fluminense opening the scoring 18 minutes in after Pablo — yes, it seems all Brazilians have one name — finished off a cross from close range.
After Bradley equalized off a restart in the 26th, the Brazilians took their second lead of the game through Igor, who was played into space to Joe Bendik’s left before tucking a drive inside the back post in the 36th.
It was enough to move fans’ fingers that much closer to the proverbial panic button.
They think they know what this team’s capable of, but remain unsure following a preseason that was full of more lowlights than highlights.
More injuries than most expected.
And a few more questions than answers in the buildup to what’s sure to be a blockbuster in Seattle on March 15.