Toronto FC lost a tricky one 2-1 to FC Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field.
Ian Murphy netted in the 44th minute from the second phase of a corner kick gifted to the visitors shortly before half-time and Luciano Acosta doubled the lead after the restart in the 52nd minute from a throw-in.
Jesús Jiménez pulled one back for the Reds in the 65th minute when a Michael Bradley ball into the area was nodded into the middle by Shane O’Neill, and Jiménez shaped his body to get the required touch for his seventh goal of the season – tied with Sebastián Driussi of Austin FC for the league lead. TFC pushed for an equalizer for the remaining half-hour, but it was not to be.
“We started the game, the tempo was too slow, which played to Cincinnati's game plan,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “Didn't move the ball fast enough, didn't get forward quickly enough.”
“And the two goals,” he continued. “We gave away a corner with an error and then it's the second phase where we move up, but we don't do a good enough job of keeping the middle compact and staying with players – you can't just move out and leave guys onside right in the middle. And then the second one is just a second ball off the throw-in, so those are two poor goals to give up today.”
“A push late in the game, it's a little bit too crazy the way we're trying to get the next goal,” Bradley added. “So there's a lot of things to look at.”
Coming off that rollicking 5-4 defeat away to NYCFC, Toronto were intent on dictating the play back at home against Cincinnati. They did that well enough through the opening 40 minutes, but the quest to balance control with creating dangerous moments continues.
“Part of it is still when the other team does certain things to try to slow down your build up or they've got numbers back, unlocking them early in the game,” elaborated Bradley. “The mix between patience, control, and still tempo, we haven't found the right blend of all that.”
April was an interesting month for TFC. A 2-1 win over NYCFC, that come-from-behind 2-2 draw at Real Salt Lake, and an impressive 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union back at BMO – momentum was building.
Defeats in the last two are a reminder that there is still much to be done.
“This is the first part of the season, so not everything's clicking on all cylinders,” said Ayo Akinola, who made his return to the pitch after a long injury layoff on Saturday. “We don't expect everything to be jelling quickly, there's going to be some ups and downs. We keep our heads up high.”
“The last three matches with Philly, New York and now this one, with the last two not going in our favour, but the team has a good mentality, we’re in the right spirits, our head is right,” he added. “It’s so early in the season, but we should be focused on the little details.”
Managing those little details and finding more consistency is the focus heading into May.
“As a team I still feel that we've got to be more consistent,” stressed Bradley. “Finding the right way to get our best guys playing at their best levels, that's one of the most important aspects of building a good team. We've had moments this year where that's been going into a good direction, but overall that's our biggest challenge.”
One thing Toronto can be assured of is that if they make a chance or two for Jiménez, he will find the back of the net.
Akinola has been studying closely and offered his insight on his teammate: “What I’ve been following from him, is just more patience.”
“He’s very calm, very collected. He goes at his own tempo. He doesn't let anybody speed him up or slow him down. He just goes at his own pace,” he detailed. “So using that and implementing it into my game would really help and be beneficial.”
Bradley still wants more from the Spanish forward.
“He's shown that when you get him chances around the goal he's an excellent finisher, he's got good movement,” he began. “And I say all the time that I still think there's more in there.”
“One of the things on a day like today when we talk about tempo is also making sure that we can step up on teams, that our ability to put more pressure on them higher up the field, win some more balls to get into transition,” Bradley continued. “There's more there that Jesús can do to help the team, but I know for sure that when we get him into good spots, his ability to finish off chances has been very good and we’ve got to keep that and keep adding some other things that go with it.”
Toronto will not have to wait long to have another go at Cincinnati as the two will meet on Wednesday at TQL Stadium in Ohio.
“We're looking to win – we want nothing less than three points,” levelled Akinola. “Our team is going to be ready, we’re going to come out firing, coming back at Cincinnati. They beat us at our place and I’m more than confident that we can beat them at their place.”