Toronto FC

Reds strike first, drop close result in New England: “It’s a game of inches”

Toronto FC lost 2-1 to the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

Deandre Kerr opened the scoring, rising up at the back-post to meet a Cristian Gutiérrez cross from the left in the 11th minute. Both sides had opportunities over the next 20 minutes, but it was New England who struck next when Bobby Wood’s shot from the top of the box found the bottom corner to equalize in the 33rd minute.

Toronto were forced into a trio of changes at half-time, including two centre-backs as Bob Bradley looked to address the success that New England were finding in the wide areas by switching to a back three. But the Revolution’s substitution, Giacomo Vrioni, proved the sharpest when a ball popped loose in the box and his right-footed finish gave the hosts something to protect.

TFC would push for an equalizer and thought they had one in the final moments when Lorenzo Insigne was sprung by a Mark-Anthony Kaye ball, only for the flag to be raised, chalking it off.

“It's never easy to play here,” said Bradley post-match. “I can always find little plays in terms of being sharper, touches: throughout the game we're not clean and sharp and precise enough in enough moments, but I also felt it was a game where we put a lot into it and when we were down we pushed the game hard to get an equalizer.”

Heading into the match, Toronto had not lost this season when scoring first. 

“It's tough going 1-0, taking the lead, to give up two goals, which we feel could have been prevented,” said Kerr. “We pushed in the end to get the second. It’s a game of inches, just barely offside to getting the tying goal. That's football.”

Kerr took his goal well.

“I was out wide and I saw Lorenzo pick up the ball and play Guti on the overlap,” he recounted. “Something that I've been trying to work on a lot in training and implement in games is when the ball goes wide and it looks like it’s going to be crossed, to run hard in the box, run in front of the defender, and use my presence in the air.”

“I'm glad that that worked and what I've been working on in training resulted in the game,” Kerr added. “It would have been even better had we come away with the win.”

Away from home, against one of the top sides in the Eastern Conference, Toronto would lament not adding a second goal to the first.

“We did have chances to get a second goal,” said Bradley. “It would would have been important on a night like that.”

Wood equalized before half-time and Toronto were forced to shuffle the deck with the half-time changes, replacing Federico Bernardeschi, Matt Hedges, and Gutiérrez with Sigurd Rosted, Shane O’Neill, and Themi Antonoglou.

“Fede was struggling with his back today. He gave us everything he could in the first half,” explained Bradley. “Matt’s hamstring tightened up, so he had to come off, and Guti’s calf was tight.”

Seven minutes after the restart New England capitalized on a scrambling defense with Vrioni’s goal.

“The whole idea of seeing the run and dropping together and then when the ball came loose in the box, our ability to deal with that part of it – Can we get to it? Can we clear it? – we made a mess of it,” said Bradley. “As much as we played pretty well, I didn't think either goal that we gave up were good goals.”

“Our ability to defend some of those moments,” he continued. “There weren't that many, but when we needed to defend tighter in the box and make some plays on both goals I didn't think we did a good job.”

Toronto went to the bench twice more as the match progressed, bringing a pair of attackers – Ayo Akinola and Jordan Perruzza – into the match as they pressed for an equalizer. 

Both Insigne and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty tested New England keeper, Djordje Petrovic, from range. Insigne then spotted the late run of Marshall-Rutty, but Petrovic was equal to his chopper from the top of the box. And then come the 90th minute Insigne had the ball in the back of the net only to be denied by the assistant referee’s flag.

“We took the lead, away from home, against a top team in the league. We were defending well, it was just two moments and then we're playing comeback away from home against a team like that,” said Kerr. “We made it tough for ourselves.”

“That's football,” he continued. “We just have to be ready for the next game. We have a week to prepare and we go from there.”

Toronto will face Real Salt Lake back at BMO Field next Saturday.

In recent weeks Toronto has gone toe-to-toe with the top three teams in the East. A 1-1 draw with Nashville SC, a 3-0 loss at FC Cincinnati, and a 2-1 defeat away to New England. In each match there were large stretches where TFC were in charge. 

Games come down to moments.

“It's such a competitive league that anyone could beat anyone,” levelled Kerr. “Our last couple of games have been against the top teams, but we weren't out of our element, we can play with these teams.”

“It just comes down to minor details, moments in the game where we might switch off a bit. Those have been punishing us,” he closed. “We know we can play with anyone.”