Toronto FC lost 1-0 to the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field on Saturday night.
Kacper Przybylko scored the game’s only goal in the 90th minute, getting his head on the end of a left-sided cross from Miguel Navarro in the final minute of regulation time.
Including 1-0 defeats at home to Real Salt Lake and St. Louis CITY SC, it was the third game under Terry Dunfield that the side has lost by that same scoreline and the second to be decided at the death.
“Football can be a cruel game at times,” said the interim head coach post-match. “It was a tough one, but I'm really proud of the work our team put into the 90 minutes.”
“We really battled hard and played some good football at times,” he continued. “We needed a little bit of sharpness and work in and around the opposition goal, but it felt like we were in control against a good Chicago team that's in form.”
Toronto has been involved in five 1-0 matches this season, all but one have ended in defeat.
“It’s the same tale of many games this season,” lamented CJ Sapong. “The effort is definitely there, there's moments in the game where we have control, it comes down to a final action.”
“As you get into the waning moments of the game, teams are adjusting. Today, at home, Chicago adjusts their formation, more guys in the attack for them; wheels fall off for a second and we have another result that isn’t very indicative of the effort that was put in,” he continued. “This is MLS, these things happen, will continue to happen. We’ve just got to work hard to make sure we're on the other side of it.”
The play began with a turnover on one side of the pitch near the half-way line, Chicago worked the ball to Brian Gutiérrez on the left. He patiently waited for Navarro’s overlap to take shape before slipping a ball down the side of the box. Navarro’s end-line cross to the near-post was met firmly by Przybylko to decide the outcome.
“It came from a turnover in transition,” explained Dunfield. “Chicago create an overload, we've still got numbers – Alonso [Coello] shifts to deal with that two-vs-one – they're able to get it in the box.”
“It's a good finish,” he added. “But our structure was there to make a play.”
That has been the tale of the season: small moments, individual plays, at both ends of the pitch.
“We just need to make some plays in key moments,” said Dunfield, comparing this match to the one against St. Louis last weekend. “Both games, today the goal we gave up late on and the goal against St. Louis was avoidable.”
“A little bit more sharpness in and around the opposition goal and we’re there,” he continued. “We got into some great spots. The pictures were clear, our actions are no longer random, we just need to be a little bit more ruthless.”
Toronto has not scored in four matches and have just 18 goals through 24 outings.
It’s not do this, do that, try this, try that.
“I wouldn't say anything tactically, strategically,” replied Sapong, asked what needed to change. “It's purely mindset. Whether it's the final ball or the finish.”
“I, personally as a forward, looking at four games without a goal, I blame myself – sometimes that's a gift, sometimes that's a curse. Typically, after a couple of days, when I'm watching video and rewatching the areas and opportunities I have,” he continued. “We're putting ourselves in positions, it's just the mentality and the mindset.”
“You get in those droughts where it just feels like nothing's going in and it just takes that one – it just takes that one to open the floodgates,” Sapong added. “This is where the character is built. I feel like it's coming.”
Saturday saw Matt Hedges and Sigurd Rosted return to the pitch from injury, Sean Johnson and Jonathan Osorio back from the Concacaf Gold Cup, and the debuts of the two newest editions to the side, Franco Ibarra, who went straight into the starting XI, and Latif Blessing, who came in off the bench in the 52nd minute.
“Ibarra’s presence in the middle of the park was key to a lot of the stuff that we did,” highlighted Dunfield. “I liked his relationship with Osorio, that transferred nicely from the training ground. He was very good on the night. He brings a nice calmness too to our midfield.”
“Latif gave us some energy,” he continued. “He arrived late Thursday night, really only had a matchday minus-one training session with us, but we felt like with the game opening up a little bit some of his directness, athleticism, ability to go past someone, the timing was right to play him. Both can be proud of their performances.”
Said Sapong: “They both bring something different to this group.”
“Very tough for them,” he continued. “I was in their position a couple of months ago and you can't learn enough in two days, so for them to step on the field and provide something for us is very big time and I'm positive they'll continue to have an impact on this team as the season goes on. Different types of players that give us different looks.”
When Toronto next take to the field it will be in the inaugural edition of the Leagues Cup. TFC will face NYCFC at Red Bull Arena on July 26 in their opening group stage match and then host Mexican side Atlas FC at BMO Field on July 30.
“A change of competition is nice, something we can look forward to,” said Dunfield. “Bar the statistics, there's been a lot of good work.”
“It's just continuing to trust in the process,” he continued. “Players coming back from injury is going to help as well.”
A fresh start.
“Moving into Leagues Cup, there can be a little bit of a resurgence of hope,” noted Sapong. “We have another thing to play for. The guys will be up for that.”