Toronto FC’s unbeaten run came to an end on Wednesday night, falling 3-0 away to the Philadelphia Union at Subaru Park.
Jakob Glesnes opened the scoring in the 12th minute, heading in from Daniel Gazdag corner kick, Gazdag himself added the second in the 33rd minute from the penalty spot and Sergio Santos made it three minutes later latching onto a through-ball from Jose Martinez in the 36th minute.
TFC had a chance to get back into the game in the 51st minute, but Yeferson Soteldo’s penalty kick was saved by Andre Blake.
It was the club’s first defeat under Javier Perez, something he knew would come eventually.
“This is a big red flag that we were expecting at some point,” began the interim manager post-match. “You make some steps forward and at one point you make one step backward: it was tonight. We came flat in the first half. The team was sending some signs that it was going to be the case, but it was one of these games that you just have to go through and the only positive thing is it was an exercise to stay in the game.”
“In another moment of the season probably this would be a much larger score line, right? We get a penalty in the second half, but we didn't convert that one. At least we didn't concede any more goals,” he continued. “I don't want to read more than this is just a step backwards from all the steps forward we did in the last weeks. We just have to gather our forces and think about our next opponent.”
The energy, the tenacity, the composure on display in recent weeks was absent from the first whistle.
“Bad start. Not ready for their intensity and their energy. And then you get behind in the game early and you're chasing,” summed up Michael Bradley. “Obviously in that there's some key moments that don't go our way. We let ourselves down with a bad start.”
“Along the way there's some moments where you can start to get back into it and change the game a little bit,” he continued. “But one or two things don't go our way, we didn't make a play, and so it's how the night goes.”
Toss out the notes.
“On a night like tonight, there is no notebook,” replied Perez. “We came flat. It doesn't matter which formation or how you plan the game. We need to get into the right mentality, the right energy to play and compete, especially against a team like Philadelphia that we know are all energy.”
Experience has taught nights like this come.
“You sense these things,” explained Perez. “When you come from six straight losses, whoever thinks that we are going to make six straight [unbeaten] doesn't know anything about football, about soccer. It's never a straight line going up. It's always some ups and some downs. By now we’ve had a few signs go up and a sign down was due.”
“Now what is important is we gather our forces,” he reiterated. “We have a very strong opponent to play on Saturday, NYCFC. We are going to play them at home and the important part will be that we are ready for that game and show that at home with our fans from the very first minute.”
There was a good moment in the 60th minute when Ifunanyachi Achara entered the match to make his first appearance since March 7, 2020.
The now 23-year-old striker scored in his MLS debut that day, the game-winner against NYCFC, but suffered an ACL injury days later.
“That's more than positive,” said Bradley. “He has worked so hard behind the scenes to get himself back in a position where he was able to be ready to step on the field tonight. He's a great kid, a great young man. The way that he injured himself last year broke everyone's heart.”
“And so to see him work his way back, to see him get back on the field tonight, that part was amazing,” he added. “We're all happy for him, we're all proud of him, and we want to continue to push him along because he's a talented, talented young player.”
Achara, red bandana in place, looked lively. He nearly combined with Jozy Altidore to craft a good look at goal.
Added Perez: “He had a decent performance in the circumstances, taking into account that he has been for so long out. We are happy that he was able to play, to get some minutes in his bag, and that is a big contribution for him and his reintegration to the group.”
The defeat was a costly setback, no doubt. Places on the table were lost, the eight-point gap to the final playoff spot was extended by two.
But the next match is fast approaching. NYCFC will come to BMO Field on Saturday to close out this run of three-games in a week. Then TFC will have seven days to prepare for the arrival of the New England Revolution the following Saturday, kicking off the next triplet of matches that will see stops in Atlanta and Miami.
“With our position right now and the way the season has gone, we can't afford to have many more nights like this,” levelled Bradley. “So is it a cause for concern? It's another night similar to too many that we've had this year. And if we want to try to claw ourselves back into it, we can't afford many more, if any.”
“With the position that we're in right now, every game matters, every point matters,” he added. “It's a frustrating night.”