Toronto FC

Undermanned Reds fall in derby vs. Montréal: “We’ve got to dig deep and push through”

Toronto FC lost 2-0 to CF Montreal at Stade Saputo on Saturday night in their second meeting of the week.

Montreal got the better of Toronto in the Canadian Championship clash on Tuesday at BMO Field, but TFC, even with a makeshift XI, were intent on making amends for that defeat.

Toronto were the better side through the first 45 minutes, but Montreal found another level after a few tweaks at half-time to score the opening goal in the 53rd minute when George Campbell worked past a pair of defenders before picking out Lassi Lappalainen for a low finish.

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty was sent off three minutes later for his second yellow card and Montreal added another in the 68th minute from Chinoso Offor when a hopeful ball into the box fell kindly to him.

“First half we were very solid in a lot of ways and felt that we can build on that,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “Didn't start the second half very well, let Campbell get by a bunch of guys, that led to the first goal. And then going down a man you've got to try to push in different ways.”

“The effort, for the group to stick together, was strong,” he added. “But it's a tough loss in a derby.”

POSTGAME SOUND | Bob Bradley - May 13, 2023

Not taking advantage of that solid first half proved costly.

“We did pretty well to nullify their threats,” said Mark-Anthony Kaye, who shifted to centre-back on the night. “They had a couple of opportunities, but for the most part we were content with the way we were controlling the game, the way we were finding space to move the ball forward. We just didn't get any final actions to really cause them any stress.”

“Going into the second half, we were going to switch up a little to threaten in behind them a bit more, but the game got away from us in the first minutes of the second half,” he continued. “We weren't connecting passes that were breaking them down and pushing them back, we ended up taking a lot of pressure and then they go up 1-0.”

“I'm very proud of how many guys stepped into different roles tonight, guys who haven't played a lot of minutes, to come out and really fight in an important game. It's unfortunate we didn't get the result. Trust me, we're as frustrated, disappointed as anyone else,” Kaye added. “We will deal with that, continue to work, and make sure we're ready to go on Wednesday.”

The red card coming so shortly after going behind didn’t give Toronto a chance to respond. Both yellow cards to Marshall-Rutty – the first for bringing down Offor and the second for ‘time wasting’ – were harsh, according to his teammates.

“It's a harsh call, his first yellow card is very harsh,” said Kaye. “I understand the rules. I understand you can't interfere with the ball when it goes out of bounds. It definitely hurt us because it's tough to play down a man.”

One could see in the frustration as he left the pitch that Marshall-Rutty felt he let his teammates down.

“I put my arm around him,” said Kaye. “I came into the locker room and told him he didn't do anything wrong.”

Said Bradley: “Jahkeele was upset, emotional.”

“All the players were showing really good support,” he continued. “As coaches we just said, ‘Look, you're going in the right direction, playing in big matches. You learn from the experience, and everybody believes in you as a player and as a person.’”

It was a second-straight loss in the league for TFC and a third in all competitions.

MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Toronto FC vs. CF Montreal | May 13, 2023

“We are going through a tough stretch and the work every day is to keep everybody going with a belief that there are things that we're doing that are still positive – we haven't had much to show for it yet,” said Bradley. “If we can fight through this stretch, get some more guys healthy, keep improving, there's a positive light at the end of all this.”

“There are good football moments in every game,” he highlighted. “We're not yet able to sustain them or we're not able to make them add up to more big chances and more goals at this time, but the goal that we scored the other day to get to 2-1 before half-time, that's a good team goal, that’s a product of good work that gets put in day in and day out.”

“I want the players to see that some of the football things – the way we play from the back, the way in moments we're able to control games – yeah, it doesn't yet feel good because without the results it's easy to just be looking at the negative side of things,” continued Bradley. “But I want them to see that there's things that they're doing that are positive and if we can improve in some other ways we can still turn things around and find a good way to finish.”

Kaye saw a lot of that in the first half performance.

POSTGAME SOUND | Mark-Anthony Kaye - May 13, 2023

“Today is a big sign,” he said. “There's a lot of guys who didn't play a lot in the lead up to this game, me and Richie [Laryea] playing in different positions, we're just showing that we're willing to fight for each other and we really want to show well for this club and it means a lot to us.”

“I saw a lot of guys play with real passion and guys be connected,” Kaye closed. “We knew it was going to be a tough game. Nothing comes easy in this league, so we’ve just got to dig deep and push through. It's going to feel so much better once we get to the other side.”