Toronto FC lost a tough one on Saturday night.
Orlando City SC won 3-2 at Exploria Stadium – a scoreline that pales in telling the tale of the match.
Tesho Akindele scored in the opening minute, charging up the middle to latch onto a ball from Mauricio Pereyra and slide his finish under Quentin Westberg. And Nani made it two for the Lions in the 8th minute, nodding in a cross from Akindele after a TFC turnover.
Toronto pulled one back through Ayo Akinola, forcing a header of his own over the goal-line when the combination of Alejandro Pozuelo and Richie Laryea down the left saw a rebound loop into the air. And got the equalizer before half-time when Jonathan Osorio converted another Pozuelo cut-back from close range – two of innumerable chances created on the night.
But it was Orlando who would find the winner following another turnover in the 84th minute with Junior Urso slotting a low shot into the bottom corner.
copened Chris Armas post-match. “We dig ourselves holes.”
“I don't want to talk about why those things happened because they are happening. You can see what happened, but I saw my team fight and like I told them, I'll figure this out,” he continued. “We have the pieces. We have enough – we have enough.”
“We dig ourselves a hole. We fight back. We push the game. We create chances. We hit the post... it's there. There's more than enough there,” Armas added. “We've got to figure that out and I will because the solution's there.”
Just like the previous two losses – against Orlando and the Columbus Crew before the break – the result was there for the taking.
“It’s frustrating,” said Osorio. “We were the better the team on the field today... by far – three goals that were three mistakes, their only chances, so it's very frustrating for us.”
“[It was] a game that we need to come out with three points for a performance,” he continued. “That's football sometimes. Guys will make mistakes and as a team we need to try to cover those to give ourselves a chance to win. We will clean that up. Go home, watch the video, and get ready for the next game.”
In the immediate aftermath, just how that one got away from Toronto was a bit of a head scratcher.
“I’m not quite sure, actually,” lamented Laryea. “I thought we played very well. Even after we conceded two early goals, we responded really well and then we let it slip there at the end.”
“It was a big effort from everyone involved,” he added. “We should walk away with at least a point – in my opinion, three, because of the way we played – but that's just how it went tonight.”
Coming off a three-week break, the match was 90 minutes of frentic energy, far too open for either coach’s liking. It tightened up significantly in the second half, but Toronto, having clawed level, kept creating chances.
Laryea saw a cheeky set-piece move with Pozuelo cleared off the goal-line, Patrick Mullins got on the end of a lovely Pozuelo cross, but could not keep his touch on frame, Pozuelo himself hit the post from range, and Dom Dwyer nearly directed another dangerous Pozuelo ball on target in stoppage-time.
“At halftime we talked about being tighter, but in these conditions, it's not easy,” explained Armas. “There's fatigue and it challenges all the habits and your defensive structure. And the way that [Orlando] play – they stretch you, they play with width, they overload central areas, so that stretches a team.”
“Our plan is never to be wide open,” he levelled. “Defensively we won a lot of balls in the middle of the field and created lots of little chances and opportunities, even at the end – [Jacob] Shaffelburg's in and overlapping Kemar, we have Dom Dwyer get a chance, we hit the post. We gave away some goals today and that's not the plan either.”
The return of Pozuelo to the starting XI saw immediate dividends, as his involvement in both Toronto goals and the list of chances above indicates.
“He drives the team and gives us such creativity and ideas and confidence – relieves pressure, sees final plays – he makes everyone around him better,” noted Armas. “It was a gutsy performance from him because physically he's getting himself going for 90 minutes and here he did it in heat and humidity like a winner. We will build on that and we will work around that and him because he drives it.”
The first of several positives on the night.
“We got our best player back on the pitch from the start, Pozuelo – you see the difference he makes on our team,” said Osorio. “The team played well, possession, there was lots of positives: the way we came back into the game after a poor start was great. We bring that to the next game.”
“We controlled the game, we were in good spots, got into dangerous spots, we were creating chances and put ourselves in position to come back and win the game. That’s all very good,” he added. “We always knew that we had that in our team. We've shown that in the past and it was nice to show that today, but, at the end of the day, you have to win and that's the most important. We need to find a way to do that. All these positives are great, but not enough.”
Echoed Laryea: “We are upset because of the way the game ended, but anyone who watched today would see we started poorly the first ten minutes and then after that it was all us and whoever says otherwise, I don't think understands the game.”
“To get nothing is tough for us,” he continued. “But there's a lot of positives for us to take into the next couple of matches.”
Having dropped two close ones to Orlando, Toronto will no doubt have July 17 circled on the calendar – the two teams will meet for the third and final time of the regular season when play resumes after the Gold Cup break – but there is precious little time to lick the wounds.
A midweek trip to Nashville SC lies ahead and FC Cincinnati awaits on the weekend.
“We get ourselves recovered and start looking forward to the next game,” closed Osorio. “It starts with our first training back, start preparing for a tough team, a team that's very organized defensively. We know what position we are in. We are going there to win. We know we need to win.”