Toronto FC lost once more on Saturday night, falling 2-0 at Exploria Stadium to FC Cincinnati.
Allan Cruz opened the scoring in the fourth minute when he was played in by Isaac Atanga and Luciano Acosta made it two in the 68th minute when he made space for a shot from range that picked out the right-side of Toronto’s goal.
Even with the formation change to address some of the problems that have plagued the side this season they reared their heads once more.
“We were comfortable with the plan coming in,” began Chris Armas post-match. “We changed the system tonight, loaded the back-line, covered ourselves with three centre-backs to help with set-pieces, an extra guy to help in transition, had a plan to play out of the back with direct play. It's disappointing to give up an early goal – it's exactly what we didn't need. For a team that's been through a lot, and teams are fragile in these moments, it's exactly what we didn't need.”
“Now you have to push the game, which we did. There's a few chances out there, they load their back-line and when you are missing certain guys then it becomes even harder to break down a block,” he continued. “Most teams in the world create chances in transition and almost every time we created transition moments, they foul us. Good luck.”
“We hurt ourselves and then we are subject to that type of game – low block and any time we have an advantage, they put out the fire with a foul,” Armas added. “That's the story of the night.”
Down 1-0 before the game had truly begun was never going to be helpful.
“When you're playing a long week like we did and you put so much into the first two games and you come up short, tonight was going to be a night that needed to go right from the start,” said Justin Morrow. “You're playing from thin margins, without DPs, and you're playing your third game in a week and you've given a lot in the other two games, and we concede early, so we're chasing it.”
“On the other end, we didn't take the chances we created for ourselves in the first half, so it's a very uphill battle after that,” he continued. “But everyone understands that we have everything that we need in the locker room to make it right, we're just hurting ourselves right now.”
“The mistakes are hurting us,” Morrow levelled. “Constantly being down and chasing these games is tough, being down here in the hot weather and having to deal with that. It's something that we need to clean up and something that we need to fix. If there's a positive it’s if we can clean that up, there's a lot there for us on the other side.”
Toronto did have their chances to level before Acosta added the second.
Mark Delgado’s close-range header drew a fine reaction save from Kenneth Vermeer in the Cincinnati goal, Dom Dwyer picked out Patrick Mullins with a dangerous ball, but he could not get the required finishing touch, and Dwyer himself, making his first start for TFC, was twice denied by the offside flag.
“The message at half-time is about the game and about solutions: about playing quicker with more tempo, driving with the ball and more moments of pressing that went well. We showed some video to reinforce that,” explained Armas. “There's nothing structurally that they are hurting us. That's a half-time talk where you try to influence the second half. We came out in a really good way.”
“At the end of the game, it's much different, because we've been here,” he continued. “So there's no words of wisdom. I say a few words for the team that we keep in-house, but it's more about moving forward in the right way and not accepting this."
“There's a lot of winners in that room and winners don't accept this. We don't do it. I mean, imagine our supporters, it's a disaster. I'm embarrassed. I'm tasked to do a job here,” Armas added. “We all know it's been hard. You play without your DPs – we can go down the list – it's not time to do that. Got to figure out a solution. Can't accept this. Chris Armas doesn't accept this. Supporters [don’t accept this]. Sickening.”
Momentum is a volatile force. Compounding percentages pushing in either direction. Where margins are thin it can make all the difference in the world.
“Winning and the losing, you get momentum and it's contagious,” said Armas, asked of the team’s morale. “Of course, in normal times, it would be hard to deal with. So in the times that we are in right now as a country, a soccer team, in a league competing and its results, it's stressful on guys, I'm sure.”
“So yes. But there's no one on the inside of these walls that accepts losing. It starts with me. I'm uncomfortable in this situation. I've not been here before: we’re in unprecedented times,” he continued, referring to the pandemic induced complications. “You're looking hard to find the solutions right now, but I'm confident I'll find the solution.”
10 games into the season, TFC find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. There remains much football to be played.
24 games. Two more – away to D.C. United and Eastern leaders the New England Revolution – before the Gold Cup break in July.
Then the next major stretch of the season will begin on July 17 against Orlando City SC. TFC will play as many games from then to the end of August as they have played thus far. With five more in September and six in October the season is heavily back-loaded this year.
Said Morrow: “We're very aware of the situation. We know that we have to start getting wins right away.”
“The good thing is that with the way the season is set up due to COVID, we play a lot of Eastern Conference teams. Colorado is the only Western Conference team we have left,” he highlighted. “There's a lot of opportunities there, but we know there's some urgency to start getting some points quickly.”