Toronto FC

Shorthanded Reds take lessons from Columbus: “We’re hungry for the next game”

Toronto FC lost 2-1 to the Columbus Crew at Field on Saturday afternoon.

Jesús Jiménez opened the scoring for the Reds in the 14th minute, heading in an inviting cross from Alejandro Pozuelo to give TFC the lead into the break, but Lucas Zelarayán would find the equalizer in the 56th minute and Derrick Etienne would sweep in a second in the 65th minute that proved to be the winner. 

“I thought we started well, some good control, some very good ways of moving the ball quickly, moving forward, creating some chances,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “First goal, very well done by Ale and Noble [Okello] moving into the box. As the half continued, we had a couple of chances to get the second goal, but there were some periods where the sharpness of our passes and the ability to move the ball quickly and have control started to get a little bit away from us.”

“Some of that continued into the second half. At that point you're trying to get a little bit more control, hold on to the lead,” he continued. “We allow a ball that gets whipped across to turn loose at the backside and Zelarayán does a very good job of finishing and then disappointing to [concede on] the second phase of a lateral free kick for the second goal. That's still an area where we've got to improve ourselves.”

With both Chris Mavinga and Shane O’Neill ruled out by injury and Carlos Salcedo suspended, Lukas MacNaughton was called into action for his first MLS start, playing alongside Michael Bradley and Kadin Chung in a back three.

For him, the second Columbus goal was emblematic of the way the game was decided.

“Everybody knows Zelarayán has got a fantastic shot. It goes in, the keeper doesn't really see much. And then the second one, we don't win the first ball and it drops the second ball and they’re on top of it, they won it and I think that's kind of the theme of the second half,” MacNaughton pinpointed. “The second balls, the transitions, they were a little bit quicker, and then they get those chances. Unfortunately we don't finish ours, they put away theirs and that's it.”

“We're obviously disappointed. If you go into halftime up 1-0 you expect to win the game, especially when you're playing well and you're creating chances,” he explained. “And we had a chance, one or two at least, to go 2-0 up and I think at that point, if we do that makes the game quite easy, do we’re disappointed.”

“But like I said, there's moments that were very, very good. It's not like we're playing horrible football, it's not like we're not creating chances, it's not like we're getting dominated,” MacNaughton highlighted. “In the last three games, we've had very good games, so yeah, we're disappointed, but we're not demotivated and we know that if we keep working it's going to come together very well.”

Jiménez’s goal was his second in as many games.

“Jesús is a good player,” said Bradley. “We know that when Ale has the ball at his feet, he's clever, he's creative. I want that to be something that we see regularly from different players on the field – when Oso has the ball, when Noble is playing in the midfield, Ralph [Priso] – our attacking ideas, those things are important, but certainly so far, you see that there's a good understanding between Ale and Jesús and it's something that we have to keep trying to build upon.”

The Spanish forward has been a wonderful addition on the field.

“Great guy off the pitch. as well,” added Jayden Nelson. “He brings something different, the runs that he makes, and it's easy to find him – I think that's why he's the top scorer on the team. He's been great so far.”

Saturday also saw Kadin Chung make his first MLS start, alongside his former Pacific FC teammate MacNaughton in the back-line.

“Both did a good job,” remarked Bradley. “That is not Kadin's main spot, but he's been there in training and I thought he responded really well. The understanding between Kadin, Michael, and Lucas was good. They handled situations in a good way, we were able to play from the back when we needed to. Both stepped on the field in their first starts and did well.”

MacNaughton assessed his second MLS outing: “There were moments that were great, but I also thought there were moments, as a team and individually, that need to be a lot better.”

“Especially in the second half, it became a quite open game, a lot of transitions, a lot of balls given away. Just a little bit of sloppiness. When we're up 1-0, we can just stay tidy, close up the gaps and then keep a clean sheet,” he continued. “On a personal level, there's definitely some positives, but always a lot of room to improve.”

Toronto now turn their attention to next weekend’s home fixture against D.C. United.

“Obviously we're disappointed, but we all understand this is a work in progress, nothing's going to happen overnight. So we're just hungry for the next game,” said Nelson. “Disappointed, but we're just ready to go for D.C. United and try to get the result at home.”

Three matches into the season, this new era for TFC has only just begun.

“To become a good team is hard work,” levelled Bradley. “We have some new players, we have some young players, and so this is going to be something where we’ve just got to, week-by-week, keep making sure that we find ways to work through the details and improve along the way.”

“Yeah, you need points,” he continued. “You need points for confidence, you need points just to keep fans happy, but I really talk about the process. Everybody's got to understand that the work is going to continue. That's just the way we're going to become good.”

“We're going to be a really good team, but I knew that this group, given starting points, given a lot of different factors, that this is going to be hard work to get it there,” Bradley added. “So the idea that the season has started in a rough way, that part is disappointing, but it doesn't change the ideas and the approach.”