Toronto FC come up second-best in MLS opener vs. Montreal

Toronto FC opened the 2021 MLS regular season with a 4-2 loss to CF Montreal at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on Saturday afternoon.

Mason Toye opened the scoring for Montreal three minutes in and Romell Quioto made it two come the 24th minute. Mark Delgado’s penalty before half-time breathed life into TFC, but Victor Wanyama’s powerful header reinstated the two-goal advantage in the 54th minute.

Richie Laryea surged into the box to score in the 88th minute, a goal assisted by 16-year-old Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, his first as a professional, but the home side on the day returned to their hotel with the three points.

“We just finished second all day long,” said Chris Armas post-match. “Start with the coaching, the duels, tackles... coming in second all day long. In moments we looked like we're out here for a pass around – just not good enough.”

“And when you're not good enough against a team that can hurt you in transition, that's what it looks like,” he continued. “And we knew that. We knew that no matter which structure they played that transition would be their thing, with some speed. And we played into their hands: three of the goals were transition moments and bad giveaways, losing the race down the field, and a set-piece.”

“We clawed our way back in, 2-1 and we make a push and fell short,” he added. “On the day, not good enough.”

Toye’s early goal following a defensive slip and a dashing run up the middle from Zachary Brault-Guillard gifted Montreal a lead before the game had truly begun.

“We never really gave ourselves a chance with the way we started the game,” levelled Michael Bradley. “We spoke before the game about understanding that we would be fighting against a team that was motivated for the first game of the season. The fact that we have played two Champions League games means that we have a little bit of match rhythm under our belt, but that doesn't count for anything when the whistle blows today.”

“It's a frustrating day,” he added. “You find yourselves behind 1-0 100 seconds into the game and from there you’re chasing.”

Credit must be given to Montreal and Wilfried Nancy, who guided his side to victory in his managerial debut.

“They took their chances well. They were dangerous in transition. They forced the mistakes. With the ball they moved us around a bit,” said Armas. “We chased too many backpasses. They opened us up at times, we expended a lot of energy chasing in moments that we shouldn't have, and overall they executed.”

But not a single of the four goals conceded will have left a good taste in the mouth.

“We’re not happy conceding any goals, so the frustration to giveaway four is big,” replied Bradley. “We have to understand that when we play against certain teams that are really built to take advantage of the fact that we want to play in their half and we want to be aggressive in how we play and how we close down, that now our ability to be good with the ball and to not give bad ones away, but then our ability to be organized behind things, our ability to put out fires, our ability to react and counterpress quickly, all these things are going to be put under the microscope.”

On short rest from their successful Concacaf Champions League exertions against Club Leon midweek, playing midday in the Florida sun, without key contributors, none of those excuses were acceptable.

“We just weren't ready for the match,” dismissed Armas. “No, I'm sure Montreal was tired too today in moments, so we're not accepting that as the reason. We all just weren't good enough.”

The last ten days have seen all the emotions. With them an important reminder.

“Our team has experienced, in just a few days, maybe the highest and lowest,” said Armas. “It's quiet in that locker room, much different from a few nights ago.”

“In some ways it’ll be good for our team,” he continued. “To feel what that's like and for all those players to understand that it's not just about showing up, because you're Toronto FC that it comes easy just because.”