Toronto FC

Reds concede late, fall to Real Salt Lake: "A tough one with the amount of effort that the group put in"

Toronto FC lost 1-0 to Real Salt Lake at BMO Field on Saturday night.

Anderson Julio scored the game’s only goal in the 92nd minute, halfway through the alloted four minutes of extra time, when a corner kick was put back into the area after an initial clearance.

Recycled high after Ilijah Paul kept the ball in, Bertin Jacquesson’s deflected shot was parried by Greg Ranjitsingh, but Emeka Eneli reacted quickest to the rebound squaring it into the goalmouth. Paul’s attempt was blocked on the line by Aimé Mabika, but Julio was on hand to turn in the rebound.

“It's a tough one to swallow for sure,” said interim head coach Terry Dunfield post-match. “The guys gave everything. The guys in that changing room could be really proud of their performance.”

“What surprised me when I spoke to the group afterwards was how hard they are on themselves: ‘We needed more. We needed to work harder; give everything we've got,’” recounted the coach. “But my feedback was, ‘You guys gave everything.’"

“It was special to see,” Dunfield continued. “In just four days this group have come together and we were minutes away from a result against a really good Salt Lake side. The boys can be so proud of their work tonight.”

TFC were two minutes away from securing a hard-fought point their first outing under Dunfield.

“Football is a cruel game,” said Kobe Franklin. “ We've had our fair amount of cruel moments this year. It's just something as a professional you’ve got to deal with. It's a quick turnaround for us, so we have to look forward to the next game.”

Toronto trotted out a new look on Saturday night: a 4-4-2 formation, a flat midfield, Kosi Thompson playing on the front line, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi occupying the wide roles on either flank.

It was one part maximizing their potential, one part nullifying the opponent.

“We want to amplify what we have in our locker room, there's some quality in there, but also look at Salt Lake a little bit too,” explained Dunfield. “I felt like this was the best way to go against Salt Lake.”

“We took away their defensive midfielders, we protected the middle of the pitch, I didn't think we were stretched a ton,” he continued. “And then half-time we opened the system up and it led to some chances and a higher tempo in the second half.”

Toronto had some good looks as the game reached conclusion – Brandon Servania hit the post, CJ Sapong whisked an effort on the turn over the bar, a low ball from Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty whipped through the goalmouth, Deandre Kerr’s pull-back to Marshall-Rutty, and Ayo Akinola threading in Marshall-Rutty – but it was Salt Lake who celebrated in the end.

“A set-piece, it’s a save that Greg had to make,” said Dunfield. “It was nice composure from [Eneli] to cut it back. A tough one with the amount of effort that the group put in. We'll regroup and get ready for Orlando on Tuesday.”

Heading into the match TFC had 14 games to put things right.

One game down, 13 more to go.

“I'm really excited to get the video, review it, and get to work tomorrow, that was my feeling,” said Dunfield. “It's difficult to change a ton in just four days, but it was good. There were some nice moments where we created opportunities.”

“My feedback to the team was keep trusting in our process. We've done some excellent work and we're going to keep getting better,” he urged. “That's where we're going to start in the morning.”

Added Franklin: “Like every game there's a lot of good things and there's a lot of things we can work on.”

“Dealing with the circumstances the team did pretty well executing the gameplan,” he continued. “As we continue to build, start recognizing what he wants out of us, we're going to keep getting better and better.”

Saturday saw the first team debut of 16-year-old Lazar Stefanovic, signed to a short-term agreement earlier in the day.

Stefanovic came on for Shane O’Neill in the 57th minute and didn’t put a foot wrong.

“He can be proud of his performance,” said Dunfield. “What a moment for him on Canada Day under the lights. Shane has been out for a while. We knew we could get to 50/60 with him and Laz coming on settled us down a little bit. He's comfortable on the ball. There's more to come.”

Said Stefanovic: “I'm very grateful for the opportunity to make my debut at BMO Field. It's not the result we wanted, but hopefully we can build off of this and just keep improving.”

Toronto faces a short turnaround as they prepare to go again on Tuesday night away to Orlando City SC.

Dunfield is eager to get back to work.

“I don't see it as a challenge, I see it as an opportunity for us to continue to grow,” he replied. “We've got 13 games left to put things right.”

“Once we review our processes and review the game, we'll see it’s just a little bit here or maybe we could have done something slightly different,” Dunfield continued. “The guys will want to play again on Tuesday and keep working on our game.”

Closed Franklin: “After a loss everybody is going to be deflated a little bit, but everyone knows that better days are ahead and we're looking forward to our game on Tuesday. Three points were taken from us on Canada Day, so we're going to go and try to take three points from the Americans on July 4.”