Toronto FC lost their first preseason match of 2020 on Wednesday falling 3-1 to LAFC at Banc of California Stadium.
Brian Rodriguez, Carlos Vela, and 15-year-old Christian Torres scored for the home side, while 2020 MLS SuperDraft pick, Ifunanyachi Achara, netted for TFC – his second goal in as many games having scored in Toronto’s 2-0 win over UC Irvine on Monday (the other being an own-goal), a match that saw a younger group get extended minutes.
Achara’s delicate chip came shortly after half-time, levelling the game at 1-1 before Vela and Torres put the hosts ahead in the final 20 minutes of play as LAFC prepare to open their 2020 Concacaf Champions League campaign next week in Mexico against Club Leon on February 18.
“It was a good exercise,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “That's what all these games are – the Colorado game was the same. A different type of game – they're a very aggressive team in the press, disciplined about their shape and move the ball quickly. It was a different experience, which is what we needed, to take some things away from it.”
“After 60 minutes it was 1-1, so we handled some things well – Bones (Alex Bono) made some good saves, we got out in the transition well a few times – but we need to clean some things up in terms of our possession, in terms of our shape,” listed the coach. “It was an exercise, that's what all of these games are, and today was different than the last one which is a good thing. And, hopefully, Saturday gives us something a little different as well. We’ll take away the things we need to take away and keep moving on.”
Having faced both the Rapids and UC Irvine in matches on training pitches, this was TFC’s first foray into a proper stadium environment, more-or-less.
“It's not ‘real’, but gives a little bit more of a sense of ‘real’,” explained Vanney. “The field is in great condition – a little thick and slow, but in good condition to play. Having a crowd adds just a touch more pressure – it doesn't feel like just a simple friendly. That plays into the emotion of guys a little bit.”
“It's good, that's why we're here,” he continued. “We want to play these games in this stadium and the Galaxy stadium while we're in preseason – gives us a good sense of preparing. It was good to get some young guys on the field and in the stadium. We got a lot of guys on in the last 30 minutes, the last stretch of the game, so they get to feel what it's like in a stadium against the Carlos Vela’s of the world, things like that and they, hopefully, can learn from this experience too.”
Having started a more experienced group – Bono, Richie Laryea, Laurent Ciman, Omar Gonzalez, Auro Jr., Liam Fraser, Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio, Tsubasa Endoh, Jacob Shaffelburg, and Jozy Altidore – Vanney made near-wholesale changes throughout the second half with Noble Okello, Ayo Akinola, Griffin Dorsey, Rocco Romeo, Luca Petrasso, and Achara on the field, joined by Justin Morrow, Nick DeLeon, Eriq Zavaleta, and Patrick Mullins.
It was the 25th-overall draft pick out of Georgetown University, Achara, who grabbed the spotlight with his tidy finish in the 51st minute.
“Achara has been a very interesting addition since he arrived,” said Vanney. “We missed him a little bit in Florida because he got sick, but since he's been here he's fit in well.”
“He's a smart player, moves nicely with the ball, he's not afraid of any situations, got himself in transition today and a cheeky little finish there at the end, so showing a lot of confidence and composure,” he listed. “He’s been a nice addition to the group and we'll see as we continue to progress through these games what kind of role we can play for us going forward.”
TFC return to preseason action on Saturday, February 15 when they visit the LA Galaxy at Dignity Health Sports Park with kickoff set for 6 pm.