Toronto FC kicked off the home portion of the 2023 MLS schedule on Saturday evening, drawing 1-1 with the Columbus Crew at BMO Field.
Toronto took the lead in the 24th minute when Deandre Kerr latched onto an inviting through-ball from Jonathan Osorio before twisting his marker and placing a shot past the goalkeeper. Columbus would equalize in the 75th minute when Aidan Morris’ ball broke the offside trap to spring Jimmy Medranda in clear and he lifted a shot over Sean Johnson. A flag ruled out the goal initially, but video review overturned that decision.
Both sides had chances to tilt the result in their favour in the closing minutes – Richie Laryea blasted a close-range effort over after Federico Bernardeschi and Hugo Mbongue combined to create a pocket of space and Cucho Hernandez hit the post before Alexandru Matan sent the rebound wide – but were forced to settle for a share of the points.
“After 15 minutes in the first half we started connecting things quickly, got a goal,” began Bob Bradley post-match. “Most of the first half I felt like we had good ideas with the ball and we were doing some pretty good things defensively, in terms of being fluid and in terms of stopping certain situations from them, so I felt good about that.”
“First 15 minutes of the second half is a bit choppy, there's no real flow, but I still think it's okay,” he continued. “And then somewhere in there we let down a little bit. I don't think we did a good enough job of getting control of the game, getting up the field. The moments when we did get up the field and balls turned over we weren't able to either stop transition or run hard enough with enough guys back to deal with certain situations.”
“The goal came out of nothing,” Bradley closed. “But, by and large, I didn't think the second half was good enough.”
Toronto had hoped to take all three points in front of the BMO faithful.
“I feel bad for the result,” said Bernardeschi, speaking with only the slightest bit of assistance from a translator. “We expected more from the game. We need a win and we lost the chance tonight. I'm very disappointed for this.”
Making his first appearance of the season, Deandre Kerr got the nod at the top of the formation. It took the 20-year-old less than 30 minutes to stamp his name on the scoresheet.
“Deandre has shown, when he’s healthy, when he's in training, that he's got good qualities,” said Bradley. “He can move with the ball, he's a good finisher, he's got a good way of timing runs and being a threat in behind.”
“Did great to get a goal,” he added. “Physically, at this point in the year, we told him give us as much as you can – whether that's 45 or whether that's 55, don’t hold back. For a first start, the first appearance of the year, a goal and some other good things, we would be pleased.”
Said Bernardeschi: “Deandre played a good match. He's young, but he has a lot of quality. He played good. I'm happy about that. I'm happy for him, for sure.”
Immediately after beating Eloy Room to the near-post, Kerr turned and pointed to Osorio in recognition of the pass that crafted the opportunity.
“I saw Oso pick up the ball and it's a type of run that we work on a lot in training – staying on the edge of the centre-back and leaving just enough space for a ball to get through,” he explained. “Oso gave me a perfect pass, I was able to get an opening to shoot and it went in. It was a great feeling.”
“It was an amazing pass for him to see that little window,” Kerr added. “So I gave him credit.”
Three games into the campaign TFC have taken points in their last two matches with back-to-back draws, but the full three points have proven elusive. Toronto has held a lead in all three matches this season, only to get pulled back.
“We had a chance to get a great win in the first game and we let ourselves down with an inability to just see out the game. Last week is not what we want football wise, but from a mentality standpoint, on a night where our football wasn't the best, to take a point was quite good,” summarized Bradley of the opening matches at D.C. and Atlanta. “I liked the goal we scored last week, that shows a lot of what we would like to work on. There were moments in the first half tonight that were pretty good, but then in the second half I didn't think we did a good enough job of finding a way to get back control of the game, play more in their end.”
“Each game there's been bits and pieces of things,” he spotlighted. “But we're not at the level that I think we can be.”
Urged Bernardeschi: “We need three points.”
“We will look at the video of the game and work hard because this is not the start I hoped for, not what I expected,” he continued. “I'm very disappointed today. I feel bad because it’s the first match in our stadium with our fans, it’s cold and the people came to the stadium for us. The people need the win, need the three points, to be enthusiastic about the game.”
Despite the freezing temperatures the home fans turned out to support their side. They will have another opportunity to do so next weekend with the visit of Inter Miami CF.
“It's always a great feeling. The fans are always so great, so energetic. We try to feed off their energy,” said Kerr of being back home. “Columbus had chances, we had our chances, but you always want to come out with the win. We're home, we're in front of our fans for the first time, we're so close to that win and then we concede late.”
“We're already thinking about next week,” he added. “We'll be ready on Saturday.”