Toronto FC lost a tough one on Saturday night, falling 2-0 to Seattle Sounders FC at BMO Field.
Dylan Teves opened the scoring in the 39th minute after Léo Chú found a lane up the left to deliver a low ball into the area. And Fredy Montero added the second on the hour mark, latching onto a through-ball from Nicolás Lodeiro before slotting past Quentin Westberg.
After a series of fast starts and promising performances, Saturday was a step back.
“The team of late, in terms of tempo of play, has gotten better, but tonight they went the other way,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “We started the game slow, [Seattle] were able to clog the middle of the field, it took us too long to get into any kind of real tempo.”
“From that we do a poor job on the first goal, so now we have to really try to push the game. We started the second half better, but again off of a long ball where we don’t win the duel and then not doing well enough in the middle of the defense they play through us,” he continued. “Frustrating night. I'm disappointed because most nights we still feel like things have gotten better, but tonight the first half was not the case.”
Michael Bradley said that the first half “wasn't good enough.”
“We know that. Too slow, not sharp enough, not enough intensity; just not the way we want to play,” he expanded. “The second half starts and we're trying to really pick up the speed of things and really go after them and see if we can connect passes and see if we can push them back and see if we can create chances and win the ball back quickly.”
“We had a pretty good start, some good little advantages, can't quite make enough of them, and then obviously giveaway another poor goal,” Michael continued. “So yeah, frustrating night in all ways.”
It was both a poor outing and part of the learning curve for a team still finding itself.
“There was no quick fix, there was no magic dust and all of a sudden everything was going to be perfect. We knew that,” said the TFC captain. “It's frustrating because we feel like in this last stretch we've made good progress in terms of how we want to play, in terms of pushing games in the right way, playing our football.”
“Yeah, it's not added up to enough points yet, but we feel like there's been good progress. The first half was a step backwards in that regard,” he continued. “But we have no choice now but to regroup and get ourselves ready for a huge home game on Saturday. We know that at some point with Lorenzo [Insigne] and [Domenico] ‘Mimmo’ [Criscito], we’ll start to have a few new faces. We will try to integrate them as quickly as possible and continue to make real strides.”
Much like the 2-1 defeat against the Columbus Crew midweek, despite having the majority of the possession, TFC struggled to break down a low block and were hit at the other end by a clinical opponent.
“A lot of numbers behind the ball,” described Michael Bradley.
“A big part of their plan was to clog the centre of the field,” he highlighted. “And so to still find the right ways to play in there, but then to also play from inside out and use the half spaces and use the wider areas becomes important. There were moments where the football and the connections and the fluidity was good, but the game presents different challenges and you try to find the right ways to still attack and find chances.”
“Our football is getting better, but turning that football into more big chances, into more goals,” Michael added. “That's the next step.”
Said Bob: “We've had two games in a row where we had a lot of the ball and the other team defended very deep. Our ability to make big chances against the low block is certainly an area that has to get better.”
A particularly gruelling stretch of the season comes to an end. Toronto will now have a full week to regroup ahead of the visit of the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday.
But it doesn’t get any easier from here.
That match kicks off another triplet of three games in a week with trips to Chicago and Montreal beyond. And after that another series of three games sees TFC host Charlotte FC before the Canadian Championship final in Vancouver and a visit to the Boston area to face the New England Revolution to close the month.
“You go through different periods in a season where games pile up, it's all part of it,” said Michael Bradley, in response to whether fatigue was an issue against Seattle. “When I use the word ‘resilient,’ that's exactly what I mean: the group's ability even on nights when things aren't easy, even on nights when things don't come perfectly, to still find ways to make the right plays, to play our football, and to still take points.”
“We have to continue to learn in those ways,” he closed. “We will.”