Toronto FC

Toronto FC falls to Vancouver on the road: "This team will learn from that and get better”

Photo 2024-04-06, 19 54 00

Toronto FC lost 4-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday night at BC Place.

Brian White opened the scoring in the 6th minute, cutting out a Deybi Flores pass to surge in on goal and beat Sean Johnson with a low shot. Flores nearly returned the favour when he forced a turnover leading to Deandre Kerr’s double post hit, but Fafà Picault made it 2-0 in the 29th minute from a back-post header in the second phase from a throw-in.

With Toronto pressing for a way back into the contest, Ryan Gauld sealed the night in the 81st minute with a breakaway from the halfway line off an attacking corner kick and Ranko Veselinović rounded out the scoring in the 89th minute, reacting quickest to a Vancouver corner with a looping touch that settled in at the far-post.

“Sometimes it’s about clarity, sometimes it's about intensity; sometimes it's about if you’ve pressed lost causes you don't have the juice then to get set to attack with that same verve and power and explosiveness,” said John Herdman post-match. “I didn't feel it was an effort/attitude element tonight. It was more the clarity on when to get set defensively and to hold that line and to be tight."

“With it being a derby game, we were just too open, which left a lot of lost cause chasing,” he continued. “The effort was there, but they started to lose the energy levels they required to maintain a tempo.”

Football can be like that sometimes.

“Tonight, it was a balance of everything,” compiled Herdman. “Some of the tactical elements we have to get better at, making sure that coming into a place like this we are more disciplined with our set defensively. We just got too loose, but we'll get back.”

“It stings, the loss, but we'll get back, review, and get back at it,” he added.

“That's the mentality we've instilled in this group. This season is going to be a tough season, there’s no doubt, but it's a tough season for every team. For us, we are only going to get better.”

His captain agreed.

“Yeah, it was a tough one,” said Jonathan Osorio. “The effort was there – it wasn't like guys weren't giving their all – it's just we were a step behind in every play today.”

“Key moments, key duels, we lost them. They were more hungry than us today and that's where the game was lost,” he continued. “But as far as effort, the guys are giving everything. This team, we don't lack effort. There's lots to improve, definitely, and we will look at those things this coming week; look to move forward, improve, and get better from this.”

How the goals came about – two transition moments, a set-piece, and the second phase from another – was particularly galling.

“It's got to get our attention,” said Herdman, referring specifically to getting beat from an attacking corner. “Last week, big moments from KC were very similar: set-piece, free-kick, and they get a 1-vs-1 against our keeper. Tonight it's the same.”

“It's just attention, it’s focus,” he highlighted. “That responsibility to make sure those lines are always set and organized against a team like the Whitecaps who are just brilliant in transition. That was disappointing.”

“The goals we conceded were very disappointing. A recycled set-piece, that's a disappointing goal. Fafà, who is five foot whatever, was able to get between two defenders and score a header. That should never happen,” Herdman underlined. “These are the things we will look at, collectively. I know the players are disappointed. Our focus has got to come back to the clean-sheets and that mentality. That is where Toronto FC was at its best, when we were able to manage those distances and keep the team tight, as well as manage those defensive transition moments.”

Riding high through the opening weeks of the season, the last two weeks have been tough. Having conceded just twice through the first five matches, TFC has allowed seven in the last two.

“Up until last week we were well above where the expectations were,” reflected Herdman. “The goals the team had set, we were right on track.”

“This week has been a bit of a body blow that we're going to have to take,” he continued. “It stings, not only against the Whitecaps, it's the Canadian derby, or one of them. It's that little bit of, ‘Okay, this is the real test now for this group.’”

“Can we regroup this week and focus on the growth areas, the learnings we take from this game and go into the Charlotte game with a different intensity, a different mindset, which for us has got to be: when you’re on the road, you have to be hard to beat,” Herdman stressed. “It’s the starting point.”

Asked if the team had strayed from that identity that served them well in the early season, Osorio replied: “I wouldn't say that. It’s just key moments that we're paying a price for.”

“They're things that we, as a team, have to learn to avoid, collectively, to not give away as many chances,” he continued. “We've been lacking 100% concentration for the full duration of games. At times we’re lacking concentration in key moments.”

“Those key moments can determine the game and determine how the rest of the game unfolds,” he continued.

“This is football. We are well aware that this kind of adversity, bumps in the road, were going to happen. We're ready for it; we will face it and this journey wouldn't be what it is without these bumps. This team will learn from that and get better.”

The now customary post-match on-field huddle emphasized just that.

“The manager spoke and Federico [Bernardeschi] spoke, the message is that there's a lot of work to be done and it's time to be all in. And if you're not all in, then you shouldn't be here,” shared Osorio. “The message is very clear. If you want to be a part of this project, this process, you'll have to be all in, and ready to give everything, every day. My feeling is that everybody here is ready to give everything and to be all in.”

The season is long. Toronto will be back in action next Saturday when they hit the road once more for a rematch against Charlotte FC at Bank of America Stadium.

Every match, especially the losses, contain important lessons.

Herdman has learned something vital from these last two.

“They’ll keep fighting, that's really important to see. There's no quit in the team,” he said. “The goals that the Whitecaps scored, I’ve said this to my group, ‘We’re self-destructing in big moments.’ It happened in the previous game and tonight we've done something similar. If we don't learn from that, we aren’t going to keep progressing in that Eastern Conference.”

“That's the big step we've got to take. We've got to look at those moments and how we set ourselves up to be harder to beat as a starting point,” he closed. “We [had one of] the best defensive records in the league coming into the last two games and then conceding seven goals in two matches, it starts there. That's where we'll be starting our tactical review and looking to strengthen coming into a tough match against Charlotte.”