Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.
Toronto FC began Wednesday night’s game against FC Cincinnati like a conductor falling into the orchestra pit at the start of a concert.
A complete disaster.
In the second minute of the match at spanking new TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, forward Calvin Harris put the Orange and Blue ahead 1-0 following a Toronto defensive breakdown.
One minute later, young TFC midfielder Ralph Priso picked up a red card as a result of a high tackle, putting the already depleted Reds down a man for the rest of the game.
In the end, despite a solid response by TFC after going down a man, Cincinnati cruised to a 2-0 victory, a second win in a row against Toronto. Prior to Cincy’s 2-1 victory in Toronto at BMO Field last Saturday night, the Orange and Blue were last in the Eastern Conference. Now the boys from the Buckeye State are in sixth place in the East with 13 points in 10 games while TFC is ninth, with 11 points (3W 2D 5L).
Cincinnati’s second goal came via a Lucian Acosta penalty kick early in the second half. Acosta has now scored in three straight matches.
TFC has lost three in a row and are winless in 13 straight away matches (D4 L9) dating back to a 2-1 win in Chicago last July. Toronto has had only three longer road winless runs in the club’s MLS history, most recently a 14-game run in 2012-13. The loss was the first time this season the Reds failed to score in a match in regular season play.
Cincinnati held a 60%-40% edge in possession and fired 16 shots to 14 by Toronto. The home side directed six shots on goal to four by TFC.
Heading into the match, the Reds were without five regulars — veteran centre backs Carlos Salcedo (COVID health-and-safety protocols) and Chris Mavinga (lower-body injury), midfielder Jonathan Osorio and full backs Jacob Shaffelburg and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty.
Newcomers Shane O’Neill and Lukas MacNaughton started in the place of Salcedo and Mavinga and were put under tremendous pressure right away. TFC coach Bob Bradley said Osorio has to undergo an MRI after leaving Tuesday’s training session with a lower body injury.
“Yeah, it’s not ideal,” said Bradley, when asked about his depleted roster. “But it’s opportunities for different guys. We’re trying to become a good team and that means everybody needs to be called on in different moments and know that the work that gets done in training every day is going to be important.
“We’re still trying to develop the confidence to get more consistent, where we can play football, where in parts of games when we’re under pressure that we’ve got a better way to defend ourselves so we can control again,” he added. “So, yes, I would say so far there’s a lot of lessons and there was a period where we were making some progress (earlier in the season) and now we’ve hit a little patch where it’s gone against us. But you’ve got to be strong. You don’t become a good team when a few things go against you and everybody starts looking in all directions.”
After falling behind 2-0 early in the second half, Bradley made wholesale substitutions, including bringing on a number of recently called-up TFC II players into the game for veterans Alejandro Pozuelo and leading goal scorer Jesus Jimenez in the 64th minute. TFC has a match on Sunday in Vancouver, the club’s third in a week, so Bradley elected to rest Pozuelo and Jimenez for that game.
Prior to the two games against Cincinnati and Sunday’s game against Vancouver, the Reds were hoping to collect at least a couple of wins against two clubs that sat in last-place in their respective conferences.
Now they’re hoping to salvage a single victory, against the Whitecaps on Sunday.
Toronto’s defence collapsed right off the start of Wednesday night’s match resulting in Harris’ goal in the second minute. Brandon Vázquez picked up a pass and sprinted past MacNaughton down the left side before feeding a pass to Harris whose right-footed shot found the bottom right corner past Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono. A minute later, Priso picked up his red card. Referee Lukasz Szpala originally slapped Priso with a yellow but after checking VAR, it was changed to red — the 19-year-old’s first red card in MLS play. Bradley said Priso apologized after the game.
“Ralph’s a good guy,” said the coach.
Overall, however, the Reds responded well to the opening goal by Cincinnati and the red card. In the 28th minute, Jimenez made a number of nifty moves inside the box and left-footed a shot toward the right corner that was saved just in time by Cincinnati ’keeper Roman Celentano. Two minutes later, Bono made a good save on Álvaro Barreal.
Cincinnati’s second goal came as a result of a tremendous cross by Acosta from the right side of the field to Barreal in the box, who went down. After checking VAR, it was ruled the TFC fullback Kadin Chung tripped Barreal. On the penalty kick, in the 57th minute, Acosta right footed the ball into the left corner, high, just past a diving Bono, who was able to get part of his hand on the ball.
After Bradley made his changes, Cincinnati kept the pressure on and the home side a third goal, though it was later ruled off side. TFC also had chances.
To his credit, Bono made a couple of good saves to keep the score close, including a stop on Cincinnati DP forward Brenner from point blank range in added time.