Toronto FC lost 2-0 to the LA Galaxy on Thursday night at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California on the strength of two late goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Heading in, Greg Vanney was aware that Zlatan was the dangerman for the Galaxy, and TFC were able to keep the big Swede off the scoreboard through the first 75 minutes, though there were warning signs, in particular when Favio Alvarez' cross was chested down and volley just over the bar shortly after the hour mark.
The defeat ends a difficult stretch of four-matches in less than two weeks since MLS restarted following the Concacaf Gold Cup break, where TFC collected four points with a win at home over Atlanta United FC and a draw away to D.C. United, losing away to FC Dallas and the Galaxy.
“For a large stretch of this game I was not displeased,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “I liked the way that we played last game, the game before that against Atlanta, so I like the direction we're trending.”
“Getting some of our international players back, adding some of the players we have coming in, getting our squad full and continuing to build on some of the things that we're doing now. Adding that little extra punch in front of the goal with Jozy [Altidore], a little extra in a couple other areas, more competition within the group, both in training and to get on the field,” listed Vanney. “Little things like that, that make the team a little sharper, more focused.”
“Until they nod one in from Zlatan, I was pretty pleased,” reiterated the coach. “Even if it ends 0-0, it's not the worst night. Unfortunately they got that one and we're chasing.”
With nearly 60% of possession on the night, Toronto were disappointed to not come away with anything.
"We controlled the whole game,” said Jonathan Osorio, who made his return from the Gold Cup with Canada. “The game changed, they got one chance: goal; another chance: goal and game over."
"The performance was great today before we took a goal,” explained Osorio. “The game was in our control, we just were missing that last little bit to put the ball in the back of the net. If we put one in, this game becomes a 2- or 3-0 nothing game for us.”
“That is what happens – in these games, in this league – if you don't take your chances, a guy like Ibrahimovic is going to make you pay,” reminded Osorio. “We have to keep playing like this, but in the end it is not good enough unless you score goals."
Liam Fraser made his seventh-straight start in the middle of the park.
“We dominated for large parts of the game, had them pinned back for a large portion of both halves and again like I said we gave up one chance to a guy that’s incredible in those situations and he capitalized on it.”
“We weren’t able to capitalize on half chances that we had and make them into real chances,” detailed Fraser. “We’re getting into good areas and having our crosses not getting past the first man or the runs into the box aren’t where we need them to be. Regardless, there’s some positives to take. We’ll head back to Toronto and look to sort those out this week for preparation against Montreal.”
Though the first half and most of the second, neither side could find the breakthrough – Marky Delgado sent a decent look over the frame while LA struck a post and Richie Laryea was on hand to get the needed block come the second attempt.
Vanney went to his bench, bringing on Nick DeLeon and Jordan Hamilton in the 68th and 73rd minutes, respectively, but it was LA who got the goal.
“Good possession, we could play through them at will,” observed Vanney of the opening hour. “We could get guys into dangerous final areas, but the connection between the final pass and the cross missed most of the night. So we made a substitution to get Jordan [Hamilton] on, a striker, a little bit more activity and presence and within seconds we give up a goal.”
Efrain Alvarez was able to find space and time on the right to hang a floated ball up to the back-post, where Ibrahimovic had found a pocket of space, looping his header over Quentin Westberg as only Zlatan can.
“We talked all night about getting out to the crossers and trying to prevent them from swinging balls into the box,” said Vanney. “The only person who is going to get to that ball, that high, is Zlatan. The best thing you can do is be in his body and try to disrupt him. He did what he does, which is he finds the only spot in the net that he can tuck it in.”
“After that we start chasing, pushing some numbers, trying to get some more guys in front of the goal, but as we did that our shape changes and some of the fluid attacks that we had start to fade. We stated to get a little bit opened up defensively,” continued Vanney. “The second goal for me is kind of irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, it's the first goal and some of the opportunities that we were close that could have been the difference in us getting on top of that game."
Ibrahimovic would cap off a nice passing move in the 89th minute to seal the result.
Hectic stretch over, TFC are off this weekend and resume their league campaign next Saturday when they hit the road once more for a tasty match against the Montreal Impact. A run of three home matches, against the New York Red Bulls, the Houston Dynamo, and FC Cincinnati, close out July.
The summer grind, the second half of the season, is here.
“We have a good team,” summed up Vanney of the last few weeks. “Through the course of things, we've looked at different shapes with our group, adding some wide players has helped us in terms of our ability to control games, be more dangerous on the outsides, which is imperative to open up the game.”
“[LA] had a hard time trying to figure out how to defend us tonight, we just weren't able to take advantage. A lot of good things have come from this stretch,” added Vanney. “Now as we approach this second half, it's continuing to build on what have been some strong performances and put points on the board.”