Toronto FC take positives, lessons from "frustrating" home draw

TORONTO – Still unbeaten and having to come from behind to earn a point, there was still an element of disappointment after the match.

Toronto FC drew 2-2 with the Chicago Fire at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon, ending the three-match winning streak that had kicked off the season.

“Disappointed that we didn't get all three. It feels like two points dropped,” said Drew Moor post-match. “They sat in deep, wanted to absorb pressure, protect their goal, and catch us on the counter. We didn't defend a couple plays well enough. That's the main reason we end up dropping two points.”

TFC took the lead through Jozy Altidore after 31 minutes when Alejandro Pozuelo swung an inviting cross towards the back-post where it was headed in, but in first half stoppage-time a momentary lapse saw C.J. Sapong level. Greg Vanney called it, “giving a goal away out of nothing.”

Chicago took the lead in the 62nd minute when Aleksander Katai surged into the box after a turnover to pick out Nemanja Nikolic in the middle.

“A ball lost in a position where you can't lose a ball,” lamented Vanney. “We don't have great numbers between that turnover and our goal. They caught us on that one.”

Toronto would fight back, with Jonathan Osorio opening his account in the 76th minute on the end of an Altidore cross, but a game-winner proved elusive despite waves of late pressure.

“Credit to us for after going behind to get back into it and push for the winner,” noted Moor. “But any time you don't come out with three points at home, you feel disappointed.”

Four games into the season, a match such as this, where Toronto bossed the action, but was punished for mistakes can be nearly as valuable as points.

“We have to take something out of this game, learn from it as we continue to move forward,” urged Vanney. “That's what these early games are about.”

Added Michael Bradley: “There were a lot of good things, a lot of positives to take away. Obviously we're frustrated – in some ways it's two points that get away from us – but it's still early. You're going to have days like this over the course of the season. We're going to keep ourselves moving forward.”

Toronto may have to get used to visiting teams adopting such an approach.

“We have a good team, teams come in here and don't want to open up. They want a certain type of game,” said Bradley. “For us, it's about understanding on the day what we need to do to put game on our terms. We had a lot of good moments today and other moments we could have handled better.”

Vanney and company knew frustration would be part of Chicago's game plan.

“By and large it looked as I expected,” observed Vanney. “For much of the first half, we had control of the game. Every time they tried to get out, our possession was patient. We could have done little things better of course, but if you're getting all the chances and they're getting nothing you're probably in good shape.”

“The goal at the end of the half was killer because they had nothing was going for them,” added Vanney. “Not where you want to be coming into halftime.”

“We had a number of chances, balls in and around the goal, some on goal. It's a process for us,” concluded Vanney. “This is a different way [that] teams are playing us. With Alejandro in the team now, how is he going to impact, what is he going to do when teams sit back.”

Pozuelo continued his strong introduction to MLS, adding another assist to his growing portfolio with a pinpoint cross that Altidore nodded in, another sign of their burgeoning partnership. While Altidore returned the favour to Osorio, who arrived at the back-post after the striker drifted into the wide area.

In some 200 minutes, Altidore has three goals and an assist.

“He was excellent; played physical,” said Vanney of his striker. “In the first half we had a hard time finding our way into him. We were crowding up the passing lanes we would normally like to get in to Jozy. We had a few more of those towards the end of the game where he was able to post up the centre-backs.”

The afternoon also saw the Richie Laryea made his debut for TFC, coming in at right-back for Auro Jr.

“He did a nice job,” said Vanney. “[Right-back] is something we're working with Richie on. He's [not] played a ton of games [there]. We've seen him do it well in training, really embrace the learning. He's got a lot good assets for it: the physical assets to be a wide player, he's a competent defender, attentive, and very comfortable in possession. It was a good first performance for him.”

Previously, Laryea was more of an attacking option, a skillset which was on display when going forward.

“He's a talented guy,” said Bradley. “Athletically he has such an easy way of moving around the field, he's easy on the ball. Really happy for him, get him going with the group. It was a good day for him.”

And defensively, “He stepped right in,” according to Moor. “We didn't play any differently today, which is a sign he's doing exactly what he needs to do.”

A debut for his new club, in his hometown.

“It felt very nice,” smiled Laryea. “A dream for me right now. I'm extremely happy about it. Had a few friends and family here.”

Though there was some disappointment at not extending the winning streak to four matches, Toronto are still unbeaten as they look forward to next Saturday's road match against Seattle Sounders FC.

“We [don't] feel good after the game because we have the possession, we have the feeling we'd win, but they came here only to defend and for kicking, not football,” said Pozuelo. “We are disappointed, but the team played good, we had the chances.”

“In 10 games like this, we need to win nine,” added Pozuelo. “We need to kick on, focus on the next game.”