TORONTO – Another frustrating day at the office.
Toronto FC drew 2-2 with Sporting KC at BMO Field on Friday night with Nick DeLeon and Jordan Hamilton scoring the goals, each a response to a controversial penalty kick award after the consultation of video review, both converted by Felipe Gutierrez.
It is times such as these that character is tested.
“I’m proud of the guys fighting until the end,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “There was a lot of reasons to be frustrated throughout the course of the game, but they kept pushing, kept looking for goals, looking for answers.”
“Goals change games,” levelled Vanney. “The first call was disgraceful. That changes the game because we had control of the momentum, we were attacking their goal, we got them on the ropes and yeah nothing more to say. I think the fans said it all.”
The BMO faithful were vociferous in their displeasure.
The first SKC penalty kick was initially whistled as a foul outside of the box on Drew Moor, only for the referee to determine it occurred on the line, and was hence a penalty kick. The second came after a lengthy review when a crash of bodies – Gutierrez, DeLeon, and Quentin Westberg – was deemed worthy of pointing to the spot.
But each time, TFC picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and carried on in search of goals.
“We can’t worry about [frustration] on the field,” said Moor, playing his 100th match for TFC and wearing the armband on the night. “We have to get on with it as best we can and not let it become a distraction. The character and the courage we showed, to come back twice with two equalizers, is the most important thing to take from tonight.”
“We’re still frustrated not to get the full three points here at home,” allowed Moor. “We created some chances, got in some good spots. I don’t think they had a lot through the run of play; didn’t cause us a whole lot of problems. They’re a good team, we know what they’re about. We matched their intensity, their physicality, and just, we're disappointed not to get the full three points.”
With Gutierrez giving the visitors the lead in the 25th minute, DeLeon would respond with a perfectly crafted goal in the 43rd minute, pulling TFC level before half-time.
Alejandro Pozuelo laid a ball down the left-side of the area for Justin Morrow to thread through the goalmouth for DeLeon who arrived from the back-side to put it in.
The second penalty kick came in the 73rd minute, leaving precious little time to come back, but Vanney responded by going to his bench, bringing on Jay Chapman and Ryan Telfer, who returned on a temporary basis from his long to Canadian Premier League side, York9 FC, with international absences testing TFC.
“it’s been a roller coaster ride to be honest,” said Telfer of the last 24 hours, having played a Voyageurs Cup match on Wednesday night. “Just getting the notice yesterday that TFC were some numbers down and needed some assistance. This is my parent club, so I would take that opportunity any day. I’m just happy to help the club out.”
Telfer drove up the right to get on the end of a Pozuelo ball and squared invitingly for Hamilton, another second half substitute.
“We were pretty at their necks out there and I was feeling like their defenders at that point in the game couldn’t keep up with me, or Telfer,” explained Hamilton. “Right before that play me and Telfer were a little bit far apart; Greg was screaming at us on the sidelines to come closer together. As soon as we did that, Pozuelo plays a great ball to Telfer, he squares it with a lovely pass and I’m just there to do my job and put it in the back of the net.”
Though it was his first time playing with Pozuelo, Telfer knew what to expect: “I watch TFC games all the time. I haven’t trained with Pozuelo as yet, but I've seen what he can do on and off the ball. He had the time and he looked at me, I ran into space, got it from him, and I knew Hamilton was there, my way to help the team was just to put it on a platter for him.”
Vanney explained his thinking in bringing on the wide attacker: “Ryan is a hard runner, has got good size, good athleticism. Our goal was to get him into box, get him on the end of ball in behind or crossed in front of goal, utilize the skill set he has in those moments.”
“We gave him a run and he makes a fantastic play. What a moment for him,” continued Vanney. “He joined us this morning – I don't think anyone knew he was going to be here until they saw him in the locker room. What a way to step in and have an impact on the game. I'm happy he was here today, happy he was available.”
Despite the thrill that moment provided, the undercurrent of frustration remains.
“It was extremely frustrating out there,” admitted Hamilton. “I mean, I’m glad we got the point, but I would have loved to get all three.”
TFC has been feeling like they just can't catch a break in recent weeks.
“This is a pretty long stretch,” said Vanney. “We could help ourselves by putting things away, but sometimes in these stretches you need a call to go your way, to tip the momentum.”
“Right now we're fighting and scrapping and clawing for every inch and everything that we get,” added Vanney. “We'll continue to do so. The margins are fine, and we're right there, we've just got to get it tipped over to the other side.”
Add in the way the match in Vancouver last Friday played out – nevermind the last month or so – and it would be easy to get down, feel that the fates are not smiling upon thee.
That isn't how TFC looks at it.
“We've been putting in good performances, everybody is working hard; we've been more as a team together: guys picking each other up, nobody getting down on each other, showing that when we go down, from controversy, mistakes, whatever, we come right back get goals,” said Hamilton. “It's unfortunate not to get all six points in the last two games, but we're heading in the right direction.”
With the Concacaf Gold Cup set to kickoff, MLS enters a two-week break and Toronto will not play another game until they visit FC Dallas on June 22.
Moor relayed the mood as this pause in the season begins: “We're hungry, we're determined. This group has a lot of character. We have some limits, things we need to work on – we're all aware of that. To show the fight back, the will to continue to plug away tonight is very important. That's what we have to have first. We'll work on what we need to in the break, heal up a little bit, and be ready for some important summer months coming up.”
And hey, the Raptors won.