Tuesday was another frustrating night at BMO Field.
It was not for the lack of effort from Toronto FC, who lost 1-0 to the visiting Inter Miami CF, despite playing down a man after a 37th minute red card to Kemar Lawrence and looking the more likely side to score throughout the second half.
Christian Makoun scored the game’s only goal in the 95th minute from the penalty spot, but not until after TFC looked to have taken the lead, only for Jacob Shaffelburg’s 87th minute strike to not be awarded as having crossed the line.
The usually mild-mannered Javier Perez was fuming post-match.
“It's just unbelievable that we have all this technology, all these rules that they put in place just to get things right, and instead [that] creates more confusion and more things that are unfair,” said the TFC head coach. “I'm extremely disappointed because it’s very clear that the goal goes in and very clear that the penalty has to be retaken because there are three players that are inside the box. Extremely disappointed.”
For his part, Shaffelburg didn’t have a clear view on what happened.
“I didn't really see it,” he admitted. “I just kicked the ball and everyone else was yelling, so I don't really know what happened.”
Nor did Michael Bradley: “I was far away, so, in terms of having a clear view of whether it crossed the line I didn't have one.”
“It looked like there was a real possibility it had gone in,” he continued. “The referee said that they looked at it and they had a bunch of angles, but nothing was ‘clear and obvious.’ Those are the types of answers that you get in those moments.”
Regardless of the result, the performance was exactly the fight the coach, and the fans, wanted to see.
“I'm very happy with the team, very happy that we stayed together,” said Perez. “We are trying to get out of the hole. We are trying.”
“We are touching the right keys and tonight we started really well given the circumstances. We were in control of the game. We were energetic. We were fast and the game was in a good way while we were 11 versus 11,” he recounted. “And then when we went one player down, we took the challenge and we accepted the game the way it was.”
“We created chances. We knew at halftime that we had to defend very strong, together, being compact, and we knew that one or two chances were going to come and they did,” Perez added. “Some of them we didn't put away, but one we did wasn't the goal that we deserved.”
Summed up Shaffelburg: “I thought we were the better team, but sometimes it doesn't work out like that.”
Brought on in the 5th minute after an early injury to Tsubasa Endoh, Shaffelburg was excellent on the night. Energetic, electric, constantly probing the opposition defense, he caused Miami all kinds of trouble.
“Jacob has gone through a difficult season, but sometimes that's what younger players need,” explained Perez. “Nobody doubted his quality. He needed to see a little bit of the other side of football because not always everything is pretty and sometimes when you don't perform and your team is not going in the good way, you don't see the field for a long time.”
“Today he implemented the parts of the game that he didn't in the past,” he continued. “And now we feel confident and comfortable that he can put in good performances and help the team.”
The frustration, at the result and the season as a whole, was evident after the final whistle was blown.
“The way that it ended guys were frustrated, guys were angry, as you'd expect,” said Bradley. “It's been a long, tough season. With so much that has gone against us and so much that has just been difficult.”
“Even tonight when you step on the field and you go down a guy, guys still kept at it in a real way. Guys tried to play, guys tried to do the right things, guys put everything they had into the game, and when you're not able to take at least a point from a game like that, there's real frustration,” he continued. “And the way some of the big moments go in the game, it's hard not to feel even more frustration.”
“From the reversal of their red card (TFC were awarded a penalty and Gregore was shown a red card in the 14th minute, only for video review to reveal the play was offside), to this play with Kemar where he gets sent off, the ball that maybe crosses the line, their penalty where Federico Higuain is standing two meters inside the box when the ball is shot,” listed Bradley. “It's frustrating, but that's life.”
The frustration will subside, TFC have little time to dwell as they prepare for the visit of Nashville SC on Saturday, but one thing will remain, the clarity of purpose established for the final matches of the season.
“We fought,” highlighted Perez. “This is the team that I want to see from now to the end of the season. This is the attitude, the energy, the way we moved the ball – that we are at home and we have to be strong in our home – tonight we did [all of that]. We are not going to let anybody come to our home and take advantage of us.”
That performance was ‘for the fans,’ according to Shaffelburg.
“You guys have been sticking with us through the whole thing,” he said. “That performance was for you, to keep up with us through the rest of the year even though we're having a tough season.”