TORONTO – It's all about finding that balance.
Toronto FC lost 2-1 to the visiting Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field.
Chris Mavinga was dinged for an own-goal in the 25th minute to break the deadlock after a scrappy opening passage when he tracked a relentless run from Fafa Picault, who was aiming to get on the end of a dangerous Kai Wagner ball into the box.
Alejandro Pozuelo equalized for TFC on a sumptuous free-kick floated into the top right-corner of the Union net in the 51st minute, but Jamiro Monteiro found the game-winner in the 68th minute when Kacper Przybylko squared a ball across the top of the box and his right-footer found the bottom right-side of goal.
“I want to say it was a positive performance, but it's hard to say that when you don't get the result you want,” said Justin Morrow post-match. “There were lots of things that we can build on today, but we have to continue to tighten things up and look forward to Wednesday.”
Added Pozuelo: “We feel bad because we [lost], but we have another game on Wednesday. We need to change the mentality fast, through training to see the mistakes, and move forward.”
It was another frustrating day for TFC, who bossed large sections of the game and created more than enough chances, but lacked the finishing bite, opening the door for the Union to make the most their opportunities.
“The very start of the game we were in control and passing the ball around, but there was no venom in our attack, it was just a lot of passing around. And while that’s nice, it doesn’t win games,” said Greg Vanney. “You’ve got to have some urgency – to want to attack, to want to force the other team to make plays in front of their goal, to create chances – and we didn’t.”
“What ends up happening if you pass the ball around 200 times in front of the opposition is that soon you’re going to lose it in their pressure and you could be exposed. That’s always the concern and always the discussion when we play teams that put numbers behind the ball,” continued Vanney. “We have to always have purpose and intention in our possessions, which is to attack and create chances. Early on we didn't have that, and then started turning over the ball which led to some counter attacks, led to a goal, but it also led to us conceding momentum and control of the game to the opposition.”
That very concern was addressed in the pre-match objectives Vanney laid out to his team.
“We talked about what we wanted to do to finish our attacks and that we needed to have far more urgency and purpose to create opportunities and force them to make plays in front of their goal,” explained Vanney. “The second half was better in that way, but we left a lot of opportunities – to finish, to score, to put things on goal – on the table: balls in the box and dangerous positions, missed headers, inability to turn things on goal when they were sitting there.”
“It was better, but I still don't think it's where we need to be,” concluded Vanney. “We need to be able to attack with some purpose for 90 minutes, not for some portion of the game.”
Pozuelo's stunning free-kick, his fifth goal in eight games, offered TFC a path back into the match after going behind.
The Spaniard explained his through-process when approaching the dead-ball: “I wanted to shoot to ground, but I see it's difficult because it's too close. I tried to chip because it’s close. Good free-kick, I think.”
Toronto sought to bag the winner from there, but it was Philadelphia who would find it.
“We pushed to win the game, but in one second, we lose,” lamented Pozuelo. “We need to look forward, to train hard and Wednesday we need to win 100%.”
With Auro Jr. tending to an injury on the sidelines, Philadelphia took advantage of the vacated space down the wing, slicing Toronto open for the decider.
“We got exposed on the second goal,” said Vanney. “It's unfortunate that it was in a moment where Auro was locked up – literally couldn't move – and then the ball comes down his side.”
“We've got to recognize that we've lost a number there and make sure that we recover to protect the goal. We recovered to try to win the ball, we didn’t, and we exposed the goal,” explained Vanney. “After that, there’s some dangerous moments, some good attacks, but we’ve got to turn those half or three-quarter moments into something more.”
On the day where Jozy Altidore and Drew Moor were welcomed back in the 18 after injury layoffs – Altidore would come on for Jordan Hamilton in the 72nd minute – two more players, Auro and Laurent Ciman would be forced off prematurely: Auro in the 69th minute and Ciman in the 78th.
“Ciman is being checked out. His ankle was in the ground when he got kicked, rolled it. I don't know the severity of it, he wasn't walking great, so that doesn't bode well,” said Vanney. “Auro, his back locked up in spasm. They're trying to loosen him up. We'll see what that looks like over the next couple of days.”
Toronto's busy period continues on Wednesday, the fourth of five matches in 15 days, when D.C. United come to BMO Field.
Vanney knows what his side needs to do to take those required steps forward: “We've got to find a better balance in our performance, in terms of purposeful attacks and secure defending: be able to win games 2-0, 1-0. Even a 2-1 right now we would take.”
“But we're stuck in a little bit of a momentum that’s working against us,” continued Vanney. “We have got to shift the momentum through what we do on the field and how we approach things.”
Michael Bradley echoed his coach's remarks: “We're still, in some ways, trying to find the right balance between being good with the ball, pushing teams back, playing into their half, but also being dangerous and being, in some moments, direct, getting guys on the move, and really putting teams on their heels.”
“In a perfect world, we'd be sitting on a few more points and feel like some of these things were ironed out already, but that's life, that's how it goes,” continued Bradley. “There have been a lot of good moments, even as we're still trying to improve and push ourselves along.”
“If you look at today, [and] the last home game against Portland, we shouldn't lose those games. We do enough in the games and are good enough that we should find ways to come away with points. We've let ourselves down on some different days,” added Bradley. “Our ability to manage transitions, put out fires when we need to. Collectively, all over the field, that has to be better.”