Toronto FC dropped a tough one on Wednesday night, losing 3-2 away to Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium.
Jonathan Osorio opened the scoring in the 26th capping off a sweeping move that saw a field-opening Mark Delgado ball dummied by Richie Laryea to spring Auro up the right where he delivered a perfect ball to the back-post for a sliding finish.
Nashville would level in the 62nd minute when a corner kick fell nicely for Jack Maher to put home.
Patrick Mullins, two minutes after subbing in, would put TFC ahead in the 81st minute with a glancing header at the near-post from a Michael Bradley corner kick, but two minutes after that Luke Haakenson would equalize once more, reacting quickest to an Anibal Godoy ball knocked down by CJ Sapong.
And come stoppage-time Haakenson would cap off a counterattack in the 92nd minute with his second, sending a raucous home crowd into raptures.
“You felt the energy in the building,” said Chris Armas post-match. “We get the second goal, we are up 2-1. We have to grind that out. We are all thinking of ways to help that out, fresh legs, try to get more width to deny crosses. You're a little bit in survival mode there and we didn't get it done.”
“They make a push that does us in,” he continued. “Got to grind it out. Got to find ways to manage that – even if you give up a goal, grind that point. So it’s disappointing to have the lead late and not walk away with the points.”
A fourth-straight night where points were there only to evaporate into thin air.
“The players are putting a lot into it,” said Armas. “We are in a tough situation and then in games, you're on the road here, it's tough. We score first, which is a big one, they get one, we battle back to get the corner kick goal. Of course it's frustrating.”
“We've taken a lot of hits. We've taken a lot on the chin here. And it's demoralizing for all of us, but we're going to pick ourselves up and be ready for Saturday because that's what we have to do,” he continued. “The strength is within our team and we'll find the answers by being together, sticking together. We're hitting our storm early in the year here. We'll be stronger for it in the end, but yeah, it's frustrating. That's the emotion. Disappointing to have the points and let it go.”
Having not played a proper home match since March 2020 – leaving aside the three closed door matches last August/September – watching the other teams in the league welcome back their fans, having that wind at their backs, is just another burden to bear.
“We've said all along we miss our fans. We feel them from afar, can't wait to see them,” said Mullins. “Nashville's stadium and atmosphere here tonight is a very good atmosphere. As a footballer you always want to play for your fans and [we] really can't wait to see ours again soon, hopefully.”
The road can be a lonely place.
“There's not a lot -- the locker room is quiet... it's quiet,” said Armas. “It hurts. You can see everyone – it's hard to swallow, right? It just is. There's a physical and emotional component to it. We all know it feels close. Sometimes it feels far.”
“Just got to get that first one, that first victory and build some momentum,” he added. “We will pick ourselves up. Sometimes a quick turnaround is the best thing.”
As ever the margins are thin. A pass here, a step there.
“Each day we come in and we look to get better at little areas,” said Mullins. “We recognize where we are in the season. And everyone in there is looking at themselves and looking at each other as a team and sticking together, but also wanting to correct things to get points at the end of the day.”
“We are putting ourselves in positions where we're playing against quality teams and really putting them under pressure and creating chances and making things very difficult for them,” he highlighted. “We've just got to find a way now to really tighten up a few little things to get us across the line.”
Toronto will look to do just that when they take to the pitch again on Saturday with an away trip to Ohio to face FC Cincinnati.
“Everyone wants more,” relayed Mullins. “We've put together some nice performances, collectively and individually, some great goals and sequences of play in both this game against Nashville and last time out against Orlando and everyone just wants more.”
“We can feel we're close, getting into the last 10 minutes of games and we had the chance to get a point or three points,” he added. “And that's something everyone wants real bad in there.”
Said Armas: “Every game is right there. If it's that close, there's got to be percentages here and there. We all can give more and we're going to keep working to find that.”
“We are asking those questions and I'm going to find a solution,” he continued. “The guys are running through the wall for me just to get knocked down, but I'm going to help them get up and we are going to roll it out Saturday.”