On the heels of Saturday’s debut match under interim head coach Terry Dunfield, Toronto FC has little time to tarry before their next outing.
TFC are already Florida-bound for a duel with Orlando City SC on Tuesday night at Exploria Stadium.
The day after that stoppage-time 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake at BMO Field, Dunfield and the side were back at the BMO Training Ground in preparation for the midweek clash, reviewing the game footage and recovering.
“It's a game of inches for us right now,” said Terry Dunfield of what that rewatch told. “If that Brandon [Servania] chance off the post goes in, wow..... You could feel it, BMO Field was ready to erupt. That would have been a special moment. But it wasn't meant to be and we're going to have to continue to work hard for that moment.”
“How we want to work is to bring clarity for the players and to what we're looking to do every time we perform,” outlined the coach. “So that when we review it, did we hit those objectives to eventually hit our aim, which is to close the gap.”
“One of the moments that we knew we'd have to perform in was denying crosses. We knew Salt Lake were the third best team from crossing positions – they scored eight goals this season from there, they average 14 crosses,” Dunfield highlighted. “We limited them to just 12, so some of our defensive work before you actually got to that moment was good. But unfortunately we only denied 11 – that one in injury time our structure wasn't quite right and they were able to score, but what that told us was we were close.”
Results elsewhere were generous – that playoff line remains seven points away, but Toronto has used up one of the matches remaining to get there.
And now they face the peculiar occasion of a three-day turnaround from one game to the next: from Canada Day to the Fourth of July.
For Dunfield that wrinkle is no obstacle.
“One of the reasons why we love MLS so much is it’s a different kind of game,” replied the gaffer. “The idiosyncrasies are one of the things that makes MLS so attractive. We're going to a different environment, we've got some heat going on. There's squad variance and different styles of play – Orlando are going to look very different to how Salt Lake looked – and then you're away from home too, so the club culture piece [is going to be important].”
“We've been so diligent these last 48 hours, every department, our technical staff, to review the game and see how close we were, and our medical team are working really hard to ensure as many players as possible are ready for tomorrow,” Dunfield continued. “And then with that information, we just go back to our process: Who's available? What's the best fit for Orlando? And then we just lean back on some of the ideas that we're trying to formulate amongst the squad, that we don't deviate too far from some of the groundwork we've already laid.”
Orlando City too will be dealing with that tight turnaround.
Óscar Pareja’s side sit somewhat comfortably on the side of the line that TFC are striving to cross and enter Tuesday’s encounter unbeaten in three matches, following up a pair of draws – at home against the Philadelphia Union and away to the Seattle Sounders – with a 3-1 home win over the Chicago fire on Saturday evening.
Orlando are unbeaten in six games at Exploria Stadium, drawing three and winning three of those encounters.
“The environment, the humidity, the heat,” noted Dunfield of the first hurdle in Florida. “Óscar has, with some time, built a very beautiful team – there's lots of fluidity, with and without the ball, players interchanging positions. They work hard to find their three just underneath their #9 in little tight spaces and play from there. Defensively we're going to need another big performance similar to Salt Lake.”
Uruguayan midfielder Facundo Torres, who scored twice against Chicago, leads the way with seven goals through 17 appearances. 2023 MLS SuperDraft pick Duncan McGuire is hot on his heels with six in 16. Martín Ojeda has overtaken Mauricio Pereyra for the team-lead in assists with seven to Pereyra’s six.
Toronto will face another quick turnaround when they welcome St. Louis CITY SC to BMO Field on Saturday, but will then have a full week before travelling to Chicago the following weekend.
It’s been a busy week, one game of the remaining schedule is down already, but Dunfield saw the team establish a toe-hold against Salt Lake.
“What I really liked in that second half [was] some of our ideas and philosophy that we wanted to build on,” he pinpointed. “You started to see some of our work come out from the training ground with the ball.”
“We'd like to build on that and continue to scaffold onto how we defend – we started to see a press develop,” Dunfield added. “We want to continue to grow in Orlando.”