Toronto FC lost 2-0 to FC Cincinnati on Wednesday night in Ohio.
Calvin Harris scored in the opening 90 seconds and Ralph Priso, making his first appearance since last August, was shown a red card in the sixth minute, tilting the result in favour of the home side.
TFC fought hard, at times it took some squinting to tell they were reduced to ten men, but a second goal from the penalty spot in the 57th minute – converted by Luciano Acosta after Álvaro Barreal was touched in the area by Kadin Chung – sealed the result.
“The first goal comes where they just play a long ball,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “I look at each situation. I saw a lot of good defending tonight. To play down a man for almost 90 minutes there were a lot of moments of closing things down, winning the balls in decent spots. The mentality of the group tonight was strong and if we can continue to build on that that's going to help us.”
Conceding early is difficult enough, but to then go down a man compounds the degree.
“It was a tough match,” said Luca Petrasso. “They're a decent team and we got a red card in the beginning, which was unfortunate, but the boys competed well, fought well. Even under the circumstances, we all came together as a team.”
POSTGAME SOUND: Luca Petrasso - May 4, 2022
Priso, just making his return from a long injury layoff, was originally shown a yellow card for a mistimed challenge. Upon review, the booking was upgraded to red. It was the first dismissal of the 19-year-old’s career.
“Ralph came in right away and apologized. He's a good guy,” said Bradley. “After being out the opportunity to start tonight, we knew he couldn't play a full match, but it made sense to get him on the field.”
Momentum can swing wildly in MLS.
A week and a half ago TFC were unbeaten in four, having won three of those outings. Now they see three losses in the rear view mirror.
“The mood is pretty quiet after a game like that,” said Petrasso. “A lot of things are going on and the boys are a bit down, but the important part is for 85 minutes we were playing a man down, but as a team we didn't let that faze us and we tried to keep going. The boys gave a great effort.”
Rarely is the sailing clear in professional sports.
“That's part of the journey. There's going to be ups and downs. There's going to be more downs than ups,” outlined Petrasso. “We’ve just got to keep going, got to keep fighting. We just keep working every day, focus on the next game coming up Sunday against Vancouver. Learn, move past it, get back to training, focusing on Vancouver, and head out and try to come back with three points.”
TFC’s three-game week continues on Sunday when they will face Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.
Every season will have its growing pains.
Toronto took valuable lessons from the 5-4 loss at NYCFC that began this dip.
“You can't be second best, you have to see things faster, you have to react faster. We really hoped that we could look at that game to understand when you play better teams and better players, we're making progress, but now the bar goes higher,” reminded Bradley. “And then we've had this tough two game stretch with Cincinnati.”
POSTGAME SOUND: Bob Bradley - May 4, 2022
“You can go through stretches where things go against you,” he continued. “The only thing that I feel so strongly about tonight is that if we can take the kind of mentality and keep going the way we did after we were down a man, after we were down a goal, that's going to pay off.”
These are the moments that force a team to dig deep and grow. A busy schedule, missing key players, playing on the road. The team will be better for it in the long run.
“It's not ideal, but it's opportunities for different guys,” said Bradley of the absences. “We are trying to become a good team and that means everybody needs to be called on in different moments and know that the work that gets done in training every day is important.”
“We're still trying to develop the confidence where we're more consistent, where we can play football, where in parts of games where we're under pressure that we've got a better way to defend ourselves until we can get control again,” he detailed. “So far there's a lot of lessons. There was a period where we were making some progress and now we've hit a little patch where it's gone against us.”
“But we've got to be strong. You don't become a good team when a few things go against you and everybody starts looking in all the wrong directions. You’ve got to keep going with the most important details every day,” Bradley urged. “We've got to find a way to keep pushing through it and keep getting better. Turn better performances and better concentration and better effort into points.”