Toronto FC lost a tough one on Saturday afternoon, falling 3-0 to Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Damir Kreilach scored from a restart in the 14th minute, Sebastian Saucedo added a second in the 28th minute from distance and Jefferson Savarino pounced on a long ball to round out the scoring on the hour mark.
Despite playing a fifth match in 15 days, Toronto started on the front foot, but were unable to find the breakthrough and a momentary lapse proved costly when a quick throw-in allowed Albert Rusnak to pick out Kreilach with a cross into the box.
“It's been a tough stretch for sure,” said Michael Bradley post-match. “We had a good start, started the game in the way that we wanted: were the ones trying to push things, we were in their half, had a few good advantages, one or two good chances. Couldn't get the goal, then give away a first goal out of nothing, second goal a shot from distance.”
“This is a place where chasing the game is never easy,” added Bradley. “Especially when it's your fifth game in fifteen days and then when you're playing with ten guys.”
Saucedo found the space to collect a ball and surge in-field to get off a blistering shot that left Quentin Westberg no chance at making a save. Jozy Altidore subbed on at half-time, but the Savarino goal and a pair of yellow cards to Alejandro Pozuelo in short order all but doomed any hope of a comeback.
“Five games in 15 days, on the road to Salt Lake, is always going to be a challenge,” said Greg Vanney. “We tried to push through it, the guys gave an effort, even when they went down a man we kept fighting, had a couple chances.”
It was the concession of soft goals that most frustrated the TFC coach.
“The first goal is just an amateur goal. We can’t give up that goal. And when you're on the road, in a tough place, in a game that you're controlling pretty good, to give up a goal like that is just... doesn't help,” lamented Vanney. “The second goal is a good finish. We need to be able to step out step out and prevent the shot, but it's a great shot.”
Vanney went to his bench and shifted the formation to spur a change in the match.
“We wanted to see what it looks like to have two forwards and Pozuelo on the field. The problem is we lost control of things defensively,” explained Vanney. “We don't make a play on a ball that’s played behind us, it ends up being a third one and now we’re really stretching.”
“It's one of those days. We keep battling,” added Vanney. “I'm proud of the guys’ effort. It was there on a day where they were fatigued and it's a tough place to play, they gave a fight until the end.”
The two goals in the opening half hour, given those circumstances, were costly.
“It starts with giving up goals,” said Drew Moor. “We can't give up a goal on a set-piece and conceding when you're on the road is very difficult.”
It is compounded by not making the most of chances.
“We have to score those early goals,” stressed Moor. “We are getting into the right positions. We have to have that killer instinct and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Said Pozuelo: “In the first 10 minutes, we had two-three really big chances to score. If we score one, it’s a totally different game.”
And then the red card completes the trifecta of woe.
“I want to say sorry because it was a difficult situation [I put the team in],” he apologized. “The team needed to play with ten, so it’s not good for me and not good for the team. I need to learn from this red card, and we need to continue.”
“I need to learn fast and I hope Sunday we can win at home,” added Pozuelo. “We need to win.”
This hectic spell over, Vanney looked back at the series of matches: “Anytime you have five games in 15 days you circle it as a real difficult time, especially to start it with two games on the road and to finish it with a game in Salt Lake.
“We got the win in the first game,” listed Vanney. “Started off slow in the Philadelphia game, made a couple errors. We played really well the other night [against D.C. United] and weren’t able to capitalize. And then today, in the toughest of all the games physically, we got on the wrong side of the game early.”
Toronto now turn their focus to the next period of the schedule, comprised of three more matches against Western Conference opposition, heading into the two-week Gold Cup break.
The San Jose Earthquakes come to town on Sunday. TFC then travels to face Vancouver Whitecaps FC the following Friday and Sporting KC will come to BMO Field the Friday after that.
“There's no magic potion, no words, no quick fix,” said Bradley of turning around their fortunes. “It's about every guy understanding how to do their part a little better, making sure we can find the right ways to turn the tide.”