TORONTO – Sometimes it just isn't your day.
Sunday was a case in point for Toronto FC as their six-match unbeaten run came to an end with a 3-2 loss to NYCFC at BMO Field.
An early red card to Jozy Altidore turned the match into an uphill climb after just 11 minutes; David Villa's opening goal just four minutes later compounded that misery, but Toronto refused to go quietly.
Sebastian Giovinco levelled in the 27th minute with a low-drive, scoring in a fourth-straight league match, when Michael Bradley pounced on a turnover and played up to Victor Vazquez, who in turn slipped a ball to Giovinco. But NYCFC would retake the lead in the 36th minute through Ismael Tajouri-Shradi before half-time.
Back from the break, again TFC would find the needed response with Vazquez bravely getting his head on the ball at the near-post after Jonathan Osorio picked out Marky Delgado from the left. But when NYCFC took the lead for a third time in the 88th minute, Tajouri-Shradi again, there simply wasn't time to mount a third comeback.
“Play a big game, down to 10 men after 10 minutes,” summarized Bradley post-match. “A group of guys who fight and scrap and claw to give ourselves a chance and along the way we give up some soft goals.”
With Toronto pressing to climb up the Eastern Conference, the result, according to Bradley, was “brutal.”
“But we play a second leg of a final in three days,” reminded Bradley. “We've got to regroup quickly, there's no doubt that at the moment, given the way this game goes, it's a tough one to take.”
It was not for a lack of effort from the side.
“A lot of credit to the guys,” said Greg Vanney. “They worked hard, held their own and positioned themselves to get something out of this game, after going down twice, fought back.”
But ultimately, continued Vanney, “When you put yourself in a position to play [80-odd] minutes down a man, unnecessarily, that's self-inflicted.”
Explained Alex Bono: “It says a lot about the group that we stuck in there and fought as hard as we could all the way to the very end. Our 10-man side deserved a point today. I don't think that is far out to say.”
“The guys were determined to not let the game get out of hand and give ourselves a good chance to weather the storm that we came up against. The guys did a great job of that” continued Bono. “Tremendous courage and fight to come back twice.... It's unfortunate that we conceded again at the end. The effort deserved more than that.”
Overshadowed by the result were several factors that will prove crucial over the remaining three months of the regular season.
Giovinco is on fire: not only did he score in a fourth-straight MLS match, but he has a seven-game goal and/or assist streak rolling that has seen him score five goals and register four assists over that span.
Vazquez too is hitting his stride: a goal and an assist on the night saw his most impactful performance since returning to the starting eleven at the end of July.
And, come the 71st minute, Drew Moor was welcomed back to the field by a standing ovation from the BMO faithful, marking his first league appearance since April 14.
“Mixed emotions,” said Moor post-match of his return. “Always awesome to get back on the field after a layoff, but disappointed not to get anything out of the game.”
With the busy spell set to continue for TFC, Moor's return adds another piece to Vanney's board.
“Five games in 15 days, three games in six,” said Vanney. “We were able to get Drew some minutes, which was important, to try to get him back in the fold, so that he can play a bigger role in next couple games and for the rest of the season.”
Twenty-some minutes under his belt, Moor is ready to contribute.
“I feel good,” relayed Moor. “It was a long layoff. The plan was to get me some minutes today, see how I respond to it. I'm not used to going 30, 45, 60 minutes, defenders don't do that very often. We'll see how I respond tonight, but I'm ready to go for 90 if needed.”
Toronto must, as Bradley urged, regroup and refocus ahead of the second leg of the Canadian Championship final against Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Wednesday night at BMO Field as their quest for a third-straight Voyageurs Cup reaches the last stage.
The games only get bigger from here on in.
“We look to Wednesday night,” stressed Moor. “This was a weird game. The guys who put in a 90-minute shift were unbelievable: the character and the effort they showed. We have a massive one on Wednesday night to win another trophy and get back into the Concacaf Champions League. We have to put this one behind us and look to win another trophy.”