There’s something about when these two teams meet.

Toronto FC lost a wild one 5-4 at Citi Field to NYCFC on Sunday evening.

Jesús Jiménez scored twice in the opening half-hour – the first when Jonathan Osorio and Kosi Thompson worked down the right-side of the box to craft a move that found him in the middle for a tidy right-footed finish and the second off a back-line shattering ball from Thompson to put him in clear for a deft chip – to put TFC in the lead.

NYCFC pulled one back before half-time through Taty Castellanos and proceeded to score three in the opening 15 minutes of the second frame – Thiago Andrade, Santiago Rodríguez, and Keaton Parks – to complete the reversal of advantage.

Gabriel Pereira made it 5-2 in the 75th minute, but then a pair of headed goals from Deandre Kerr and Michael Bradley, each off of Alejandro Pozuelo set-piece deliveries – a corner kick and a free kick, respectively – saw TFC nearly mount the required comeback. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough.

“The game had different parts,” recapped Bob Bradley post-match. “We were smart the way we started the game. We knew that when we got the lead they were going to be very aggressive sending numbers forward and they have good ideas with their attackers when they get the chance.”

“We were on our heels, we struggled then in certain situations to get pressure on the ball, and then it made us hesitant defensively in terms of decisions. They exploited the wide areas, they did a good job to create overloads on both sides and still pin us a little bit in the middle. We got beat one-on-one on the flanks a few too many times,” he continued. “And all that led to just so many crosses coming through the box.”

When the tide turned, Toronto couldn’t find a way to hold it back.

“Ideally you’d get a little bit more control of the game with the ball, you’d play a little bit more in their end,” prescribed the coach. “But they were putting so much into it that in reality maybe we just needed to tighten things up defensively and fight through some minutes until we could start to get our feet on the ground again.”

“It's not always a matter of exactly what you want. Our whole idea before this game was that we didn't want to just get pushed deep, that we had to find ways to move up the field, we had to find ways, even if they had the ball, to defend them in their half – the type of collective intensity that makes it hard for them to build up and play forward,” Bradley explained. “When we got into that rough stretch, there was hesitancy. There's moments where if they've got a guy running through and there's a guy right in front of you, you're not sure, should I step to the ball or do I have to deal with the runner?”

“They were able to put us on our heels in that stretch,” he added. “I would have liked us to find a way to regain that collective intensity and push them back a little bit.”

Said Osorio, who played his 300th match for the club: “We felt the pressure and we were sitting back a little bit too much, we invited the pressure. And they're a good team, they adjusted and they pushed and fought their way back.”

“As a team, we can let it get away from us and that's what happened,” he added. “Saying that, I'm really proud of the way the team fought back. We left too big of a mountain to climb; we need to learn to not let the game get away from us.”

At 5-2 the game was all but over; TFC were unwilling to throw in the towel.

“I want the guys to feel good about that,” said Bradley. “There was a period where things got away from us, but then on the field you saw guys pick themselves up, keep going. We started to have the confidence to get into their end again.”

“When we got up the field today we did some very good things, but when they played through us and got into the final part of the field, that's where we had such a tough time,” he balanced. “I see the good things that we were able to do when we got forward, I saw the push late in the game, now I need to look harder at the different situations that arose and our ability to handle some of those moments better.”

That’s the way it goes.

A season rarely sees linear progress. It’s two steps forward, one step back. The unbeaten run, winning at home, the big win over the league-leading Philadelphia Union, those were steps forward. This loss in New York, while a step back, is also the beginning of the next step forward.

“We know that we can improve. We have levels to reach that we haven't reached yet,” said Osorio. “It’s a tough loss, but we will learn from it. And as the season goes, you'll see this team become much more consistent.”

Jiménez, with six goals in eight games, continues the red-hot start to his MLS career. Captain Bradley’s header was his first of the season, it was the first of a career for the 20-year-old Kerr, and two more assists for Pozuelo and Thompson as TFC continue to evolve.

“They're all great goals,” remarked Osorio. “Michael’s goal and Deandre’s goal are off set-pieces and they get us back into the game when it's very easy to put your head down and just let the game end. We didn't do that, we fought to the very end which says a lot about the character of this team.”

“And Jesús did today what he's been doing all year,” he continued. “He's proven himself and gone above people's expectations of him coming into this season. He's showing the calibre of a striker that he is. When he gets a chance, he puts it in the back of the net. On more than not, getting four goals will be enough to get a result.”

Bob Bradley still expects more from Jiménez: “I do. When we continue to grow as a team, his all around contribution is going to get bigger and bigger.”


The match was lost, but the season goes on.

TFC will host FC Cincinnati next weekend at BMO Field and then head to Ohio for a return fixture to kick off the May slate of five matches leading into the June international break.

“These kind of matches are good,” said Osorio. “This is against a really good team. This is against the defending champions and with their exit in the [Concacaf] Champions League, now their full focus is on MLS, It was always going to be a tough game.”

“It's a really good learning experience for the team as a whole and even more so for the young guys. We're trying to figure things out tactically and collectively how we can do things better and keep ourselves in this kind of game and give ourselves a chance to get a result out of it. It's a game that we will all learn from,” he continued. “Things are going well, we showed some good things in this game. We need to just learn from this and look forward to the next game because the next few are going to be really important for us.”