“A hard-earned point, that's for sure.”
That's how Toronto FC defender Drew Moor described Friday night's 1-1 draw away to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BC Place.
TFC bossed large swathes of the match, only to concede a penalty kick in the 83rd minute when Moor's attempted tackle brought down Yordy Reyna in the box and Fredy Montero beat Quentin Westberg from the spot a minute later – it was the Whitecaps only shot on goal all night.
That stung, but Toronto redoubled their efforts to find the equalizer in the final minute of regulation when Jozy Altidore and Marky Delgado combined neatly to find Nick DeLeon in space on the right. His cross-cum-shot took a deflection off Ali Adnan and squeezed past Max Crepeau in the Vancouver goal.
“I thought it was fair on the night,” said Greg Vanney of the equalizer. “It took me from an emotion where I was very angry, to... I guess, I’ve calmed down a little bit.”
“I’m proud of the guys because we were trying to push the game, trying to find ways into the box, trying to find ways to score a goal,” continued Vanney. “They do a good job of protecting their goal. We were having a hard time finding a way to break it open.”
Vanney, however, was not pleased with the manner in which TFC conceded: “We were the architect of our own demise on the goal, giving up the ball in a bad spot. A very fast player on transition puts us in a tough situation.”
“But the guys stuck with it,” added Vanney. “That's something we’ve been talking about this week. They fought until the end with some urgency and some quality to create chances. When you push the game like that, hopefully, at some point, something gives.”
Having lost two straight heading into the match and winless in five, a road point, given the circumstances, will have to suffice.
“For most of the game, we controlled most of the play,” explained Jozy Altidore. “Fair play to them, they punished us that one time we lost the ball in a difficult spot. I think we deserved three points, but we’ll take one. We’ve been in a rut and it’s a positive result at the moment.”
Having gone behind against the run of play, Toronto were dogged in not letting heads drop.
“At least head back to Toronto with something,” relayed Liam Fraser of the mindset in the waning moments. “It showed a lot of resilience from us to come back and for Nick to get us that goal in the dying moments. We were striving for those three points, and I think we deserved them.”
Resilience was also the word the goal-scorer used to describe his side.
“It shows resilience,” said DeLeon. “That PK definitely hurt – it was a PK, but we felt we put a good shift in before that. Proud of the guys for fighting back, taking a point out of this game.”
DeLeon described his equalizer: “A nice little combo between Marky and Jozy, I just tried to whip in a dangerous ball, it took a fortunate deflection and went it. [We'll] take it.”
Without the services of Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio once more, Fraser was deputized again in the middle of the park.
“I thought I did well,” he said post-match. “Disappointed from a team aspect not to come away with the three points. I was building on the last performance against San Jose. My teammates really helped me with that. But again we’re not satisfied with a draw, we wanted to take those three points. We’re going to head back to Toronto, we have a game against Kansas [City] on Friday and we’re going to push for that win.”
TFC has grown used to teams coming to BMO Field and sitting back, but to experience such treatment on the road was something else.
“It was a weird game: they sat in pretty deep, allowed us to come at them,” said Moor. “Going behind, showing the character to stay in it, and come back and earn a point will make the trip home a little better.”
“This is how teams are going to play with us now,” added Moor. “We need to be more dynamic in attack, prove to teams that we can score goals, that we can pull them apart, can stretch them out. At home, teams have sat deep against us and looked to hit us on the counter. Coming on the road it is a bit different for that to happen.”
“We've got to continue to work, get in good spots, get in dangerous areas offensive, and be sure that we're taking care of things behind the ball,” urged Moor. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
When opponents take that approach, “it takes a little more quality, it takes a little more precision,” according to Vanney.
“We’ve got to be able to hurt teams from wide positions. We’ve got to be able to hurt teams from distance. If we can do that, they might have to open up,” outlined Vanney. “This game would’ve done well having a goal scored earlier, that would’ve changed the complexion of the game. If we would have, that is.”
“That’s football. Teams choose their tactics; they choose the way they think they can win,” added Vanney. “Right now, teams are choosing to get numbers between the ball and the goal against us, forcing us to have to break them down and try to hit us on the transition.”
“We've got to stick with it,” stressed Vanney. “I do believe that the goal tide is going to come, it's going to turn, if we keep working and we keep pushing the tempo.”
Altidore echoed his coach: “We have to be more dangerous. We have to take more risk in the final third – we’re too comfortable with getting it, playing the safe pass – and that comes with repetition.”
“The goals are going to come,” continued Altidore. “We can do with a little bit more quality at times, but you can’t fault the boys for effort. Greg has done a great job preparing everybody. Tonight was a group playing for each other; for our coach because he enables us to do what we do. We need him, we rely on him, and we look forward to next week.”