It’s not every week that a team gets an immediate chance to make amends for a defeat.
Toronto FC will have just that on Wednesday night when they travel to Ohio for a rematch of sorts against FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium.
The two sides met last Saturday at BMO Field with Cincinnati emerging with a 2-1 victory on Toronto’s home patch.
TFC travel equipped with the lessons of that defeat.
“When we look back on the first game, we felt that we didn't start with a fast enough tempo,” said Bob Bradley on Tuesday. “Cincinnati had ideas of trying to shut down the middle, force us out wide. We were able to get wide and get some good balls in the box – we still need to get more attackers in the box in some of those situations.”
“Those are some of the takeaways,” he summarized. “Tempo quicker, a little bit more aggressive with the way we go forward, get more numbers up, do a good job getting our defenders pushed up onto people early.”
The rhythm of a season can swing from game to game, wins to losses. That is just one force in a campaign, underneath, however, there is more.
There are the core messages that propel a side.
Kosi Thompson, in his first season with the first team, has taken on those on board.
“Everyone on the team needing to show up on the day and try to perform and give their best. The technical side or the tactical side, just everyone trying to give 100% every single time,” he said, asked what lessons from the last match the team wanted to carry into this second meeting. “If everyone is able to do that, then we can definitely come away with three points.”
That has been one of the many lessons he has learned since rising to the MLS level from TFC II.
“Demand is high, very, very high at all times. You can never turn off,” Thompson outlined. “At every single point in the match there's always something that you can be focusing on, that you can be worrying about, that you can be fixing.”
“There's always something in the match that you need to be changing,” he continued. “It's a very high demand, the highest that I've ever played at. And it's just consistency, consistency.”
That focus grows from every second, to every minute, to every half, to every match. Victories propel, losses motivate.
“You want to win every game,” levelled Bradley. “Especially you want to win every game at home. And now if you let some points get away from you, the next game becomes that much more important, especially if it's the same opponent.”
“It's similar to any kind of two leg situation – learn from the first game, have a really strong response,” he continued. “Cincinnati has a great stadium, great field, so players look forward to going there and playing.”
Revenge? Maybe a little, but that’s only part of the motivation.
“Not only revenge, but we’re trying to rack up as many points as possible. That's how it is in the league,” Thompson expanded. “Not only are we trying to bounce back after a tough loss, but we're also trying to look forward and find ways to win.”
Wednesday will mark the first time this season that TFC will play three matches in a week. When the pace of the schedule increases following the June international break there will be more of these to come.
They are moments where rotation may be required. Bradley has been preparing the side for these all along.
“Everybody's had playing time this year,” highlighted the coach, noting that Chris Mavinga and Carlos Salcedo look to be unavailable midweek. “With different combinations that get utilized in training, there's a comfort level in every situation. Lukas [MacNaughton] and Shane [O’Neill] are ready to do a good job, give us a strong performance.”
Following Wednesday’s action TFC are set for a cross continent hop with a match in British Columbia against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday.
“When you get a busy week it’s a challenge, especially when you are going through a stretch where you're a little bit down on numbers,” Bradley said of the upcoming schedule. “We've been smart with what we've done this week. First things first: Cincinnati and then come back, assess where we are physically, and see who's ready for the trip to Vancouver.”
There’s a saying about history that feels applicable to a second consecutive match against the same opponent. It may not repeat, but it rhymes.
As such Toronto expect a similar challenge from their hosts, it may look a little bit different though.
“Defensively, trying to close down the middle, I don’t think that part will change,” anticipated Bradley. “They’ve played two games in a row 4-2-3-1. I think they felt pretty good about the way they played against LAFC at home in the previous game, so I would expect that’ll see 4-2-3-1 again, but I also would expect that they're going to rotate some players.”
“[New DP Obinna] Nwobodo played some minutes the other day, he's now gotten a few more days with the group, so that's a possibility. [Geoff] Cameron didn't travel. There's some guys like [midfielders Tyler] Blackett and [Yuya Kubo] that weren't here last game that I think are available. We saw [forward Brandon] Vázquez a little bit – wouldn't be surprised to see him start,” he listed. “I think they'll take the ideas from last game, but I think they'll make some changes and be ready to push us.”