Toronto FC lost a tough one on Wednesday night, falling 4-0 away to Inter Miami CF in Florida.
After both sides were forced into a pair of early substitutions – Victor Vázquez and Brandon Servania for Toronto, Jordi Alba and Leo Messi for Miami – the home side took the lead in first-half stoppage-time when Facundo Farías smashed a half-cleared cross on the volley into the top right corner.
Ryan Taylor added a second in the 54th minute with a low drive from the right after a curling run just beyond the Toronto defensive shape. Benjamin Cremaschi netted the third in the 73rd minute, slipped in by Taylor and Taylor capped off the night himself with an emphatic finish in the 87th minute from a tight angle.
“We knew it would be tough tonight,” said Terry Dunfield post-match. “Since Messi and Co. have come in, Miami have six wins and a draw at home, they're undefeated.”
“There were two ways we could approach the game: sit back and look to hit them on the counter or try to play some football,” he balanced. “I thought we were very good in the first half, created two really nice opportunities where we need to take one.”
Toronto did have the better of the early chances.
Deandre Kerr smashed his own rebound off the inside of the post in the 13th minute after breaking in clear on goal. Jonathan Osorio and Federico Bernardeschi combined well to progress up the right side, but the square ball for a wide open Kerr was not quite square enough.
“The first half we outplayed Inter Miami,” highlighted Dunfield. “We created the better chances, played the better football, we were really well organized defensively. We need to take the chances when they come our way.”
“We protected the box well,” he continued. “Similar to Vancouver in our last game, we struggled to take a punch. When we concede it's really hard for us to move on to the next play. If we can figure that out, then maybe we're not watching these tough finishes to games.”
Miami had some looks of their own – a Messi touch at the back-post that he couldn’t keep on frame stands out – but the breakthrough came virtually out of nowhere, a cross punched clear by Tomás Romero falls kindly for Farías and it’s in the back of the net.
“We started the game very well,” said Alonso Coello. “Started putting some pressure on them, getting possession and circulating the ball. Once they get the first goal before halftime, we come back in the second half and we lost that edge and that territory. They started controlling the ball and we're not able to get the ball back and play our game.”
Toronto came out for the second half with some energy, Bernardeschi put the ball in the back of the net just two minutes after the restart following a daring run, only for the offside flag to rule it out.
Then Taylor finds space for a hopeful shot from range and it snowballs.
That’s how it goes for teams in the middle of a rough patch. They hit the post, pass up on a good chance with an overhit pass, see one flagged offside, while the opponent scores on every half decent chance.
“That's where we're at right now,” underlined Dunfield. “We're seeing longer spells of good football; there's so much talent here.”
“And the first one is a tough goal to give up,” he added. “Miami really didn't have an opportunity in the first half and the way we concede on the back of missing chances is tough to swallow.”
The team knows that. Knowing is half the battle.
“That’s something we have to improve,” urged Alonso. “When things go sideways – and in a soccer game, 90 minutes, sometimes it's going to happen – we need to be able to keep our head in it, stick together, and trust what we're doing.”
There are always bright spots in defeat.
Creating two or three gilt-edged chances is one. The play of Alonso, going up against some famed sons of his homeland in Alba and Sergio Busquets, nevermind Messi who made his name at Barcelona, was another.
“It's tough to be too positive on the back of the result, but I thought Alonso was outstanding,” responded Dunfield, asked about the 23-year-old midfielder. “I don't think it came out of nowhere. His body of work over the last 13 weeks has been excellent, but he took his game to another level tonight.”
“Receiving it in tight spaces just off the shoulder of Miami's front-line, some of his decision making when and when not to progress was excellent,” he listed. “Defensively he protected space well and he worked really hard to regain possession when it was the right time to step out and win it.”
TFC must now shake themselves off to go again on Saturday when they head to New York City for a date with NYCFC.
“Right now it's tough,” admitted Alonso, looking ahead to the next one. “Everyone in this group is a professional, able to move forward, learn from the mistakes, and come back together as a team for Saturday.”