Toronto FC

Reds concede tough battle vs. Montreal: “We need to keep going, all together like a team"

Toronto FC lost 3-2 to CF Montreal on Sunday night at BMO Field.

Mathieu Choinière’s first of two goals in the 18th minute and an Aimé Mabika own-goal in the 25th minute had Toronto down by two after an even start to the match. The side regrouped at half-time and pulled one back in the 66th minute from a stunning Federico Bernardeschi hit, but a penalty kick converted by Choinière in the 79th minute reinstated Montreal’s two goal lead. 

Reduced to 10 men after a red card to Raoul Petretta that led to the penalty, Toronto added a second in the 94th minute, again from Bernardeschi, but the final whistle came before they could make it count.

“It was a tough game,” said Bernardeschi post-match. “The first 20 minutes we played very good. We were aggressive, pressing, and the first shot of the other team, they scored. That mentally was tough.”

“And after five or ten minutes, another goal,” he continued. “But we were in the game. We continued to play, we continued to be aggressive, and this was good. Unfortunately, tonight was a derby and we needed a victory, a win, but we lost again. We are frustrated right now.”

Montreal were clinical in taking advantage of Toronto mistakes.

“If we're able to cut out some of the errors there was some really nice football at times,” said Terry Dunfield. “After half-time when we reorganized, the team showed some resiliency in the second half. We got a goal we deserved, a nice goal, and then unfortunately it’s a tough turnover. Raoul tries to make a play that he doesn't need to make. Tomás [Romero] is in a good spot to make a save.”

“It would have been an exciting 20 minutes,” he continued. “I’m gutted for our fans that we weren't able to chase it with 11 men, but I don't think it deterred us. We kept going and it would have been nice if we had another five minutes.”

Montreal’s first goal came from a free-kick in their own half. A long ball found Jules-Anthony Vilsaint on the left and he was able to move in field to hit a shot towards the right-post. When it caromed off the base of the upright Choinière reacted quickest. 

The second came when Romero’s under-hit goal-kick was touched in behind by Bryce Duke. Vilsaint’s low shot was pushed wide by the Toronto keeper, but Kwadwo Opoku’s hard run to the rebound forced Mabika into action.

Two tough goals to concede.

“It's a direct free-kick that goes in behind our back-line,” began Dunfield of the first goal. “We still have five players versus their two to manage that situation. We allow their centre-forward to come inside. It's a nice strike. We need to keep them wide there.”

“And then on the second goal, it's a tough goal-kick. They react quicker,” he explained. “It's a play that guys know that they can do better.”

Both were preventable.

“We started good. They didn't create much,” assessed Prince Owusu, who made his debut for the club. “And then one long ball, one mistake – I think they don't know themselves how they scored the first goal.”

“One shot, one goal. Then they got the second one,” he continued. “It was tough. We came out for the second half with a different energy, more intensity, got a couple of chances, but the last ball wasn't perfect. And then the penalty, another mistake. We made three mistakes and they got three goals.”

“If we didn’t make the mistakes, we win this game for sure,” Owusu added. “They didn’t create a nice play that you can say, ‘Okay, they did it well,’ – this was mistakes from us. Now we have to talk about it and make sure these mistakes don't happen again.”

Toronto switched to a back five to get to half-time and then made two changes, bringing on Kobe Franklin and Alonso Coello for Michael Bradley and Franco Ibarra. Lorenzo Insigne replaced Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty in the 60th minute.

“At half-time we had a choice,” laid out Dunfield. “We could have said let's stop the bleeding and continue with the back five or trust in our work over the last three weeks and come back out on the front foot.”

“We went back to the structure that we started with and it worked well,” he continued. “Kobe came on, gave us a little bit of a lift. Brandon [Servania, who started at right-back] had a nice relationship in midfield with Alonso which allowed Oso [Jonathan Osorio] to step out and press. I was happy with the response after half-time.”

That resulted in Bernardeschi snapping TFC’s scoreless drought to get the side back into the game in the 66th minute. Three passes from the Toronto half – Coello to Osorio, Osorio to Insigne, Insigne to Bernardeschi – and a sweet left-footed curler saw the ball in the back of the Montreal net.

11 minutes later though a good turn in the centre-circle from Opoku created an odd-man break for Montreal prompting Petretta to shove Lassi Lappalainen in the back as he bore down on goal, conceding the penalty and prompting the referee to issue a red card.

Reduced to 10 men, Bernardeschi would add a second in stoppage-time when Osorio found him in that same pocket of space on the left. But it was not enough.

“It's important for me that we win the game,” replied Berndeschi, asked about his brace. “We worked very hard in the last three weeks. We don't deserve this. The team doesn't deserve this.”

“We have a lot of players with experience and we know this is football, this is normal. Sometimes you go up, sometimes you go down, this is the life, okay?” he continued. “But for the young guys, it's tough because when you lose the game the confidence is low. I'm happy about the two goals, but if I didn't help the team to win it’s nothing.”

In the midst of a long, hard season, it was a positive. They were the first goals TFC has scored since Dunfield took over the managerial duties.

“There's been a lot of talk, but actions speak louder than words,” said the interim coach. “And not only did [Bernardeschi] score two very nice goals, he worked his ass off. He stepped out and pressed, he repressed at times; he was excellent tonight.”

TFC captain Bradley made his return to the starting lineup before coming off at half-time in a preplanned move. Insigne came off the bench, as did Vázquez.

“It was nice to have Michael back,” said Dunfield. “Lorenzo came on, he was impactful and we saw Victor for the last 10 minutes.”

And Owusu made his debut.

“The day didn’t start well for me,” said the German forward, drenched in sweat. “I got a little bit sick in the night, so I had to take some medication. We tried everything to get me as fit as possible, but I felt it in the game. I had less power. It was hard for me because I couldn't [play] like I wanted.”

Owusu had a few moments, a neat back-heel that nearly crafted an opportunity and an inviting pull-back to the corner of the box that was nearly met by Bernardeschi.

“I felt for Prince,” lamented Dunfield. “At times he was a little bit isolated; we didn't play into [him] with enough quality.”

Toronto will return to action next Saturday when they travel to Ohio to face the Columbus Crew. The side had ten games to make something of the season when MLS play resumed following the conclusion of the Leagues Cup. 

Nine games remain.

“It's not the season we wanted, but this is the reality,” levelled Bernardeschi. “We need to work, we need to keep going, all together like a team work hard. [In] my experience, the best solution is to work hard and stop thinking about outside, focus on the team, focus on work, and you exit the tough moment.”