Most of the Toronto FC players started Saturday’s game against FC Cincinnati as if they had just rolled out of bed.
The Reds lost a 2-1 decision to the MLS Eastern Conference players at BMO Field as a result of an extremely slow first half. Toronto increased the pressure in the closing minutes, with goalscorer Jesus Jimenez pulling TFC into one. But the return has fallen short and TFC has now lost two in a row. For Jimenez, it was his seventh goal in eight MLS games since he joined TFC this season from Polish club Górnik Zabrze. He is tied with Sebastián Driussi of Austin FC for most in the league.
“It’s disappointing that we haven’t had a stronger response from the start,” said TFC coach Bob Bradley. “At the beginning of the game, the pace was very slow. We play according to the Cincinnati game plan. We didn’t move the ball fast enough, we didn’t advance fast enough. And then the two goals (Cincinnati) – we conceded a corner with a mistake. And then the second is just a second ball from a throw-in. So those are two bad goals to give up on.”
The defeat broke a three-game home streak for Toronto. TFC now have three wins, four losses and two draws this season and have conceded 19 goals in nine games, the second most in MLS.
Despite the slow start, TFC was statistically superior, maintaining the advantage in ball possession (66%-34%) and shooting (11-7). Both teams hit three shots on goal. But then again, not playing hard from the start buried the Reds.
On the good news front, forward Ayo Akinola entered the game in the 74th minute, the Canadian international’s first taste since last July when he injured his knee playing for Canada. Akinola had the chance to tie the game in the 77th minute when he put the ball to his feet inside the area but was unable to pull the trigger. All in all, Akinola said he felt good.
“This is just the first part of the season, so not everything is going to run on all cylinders to begin with,” said the Brampton native, when asked about his impressions of the loss. “And you know, we still have a new coaching system. We have new players. So we don’t expect everything to change quickly. Obviously, there will be ups and downs. At the moment we are on a losing streak, but I hope things change, players expect things to change. We still keep our heads up. I think the team has a good mindset and we are in the right spirit.”
Ian Murphy scored for a sold-out Cincinnati team in the first half and Luciano Acosta in the second, with the visitors winning 2-0 before Jimenez responded for Toronto. There were times when TFC dominated on offense in the second half, but overall, the Reds were, again, very inconsistent in defence.
“As a team, I still feel like we have to be more consistent and find the right path for our best players to play at their best levels,” Bradley said. “This is one of the most important aspects of building a good team. And I think we’ve had moments this year where this is going in a good direction, but I still think, overall, this is still our biggest challenge and we have to keep trying to find the right path.
“(But) it’s up to the coaching staff, it’s up to me to find the right combination of those ideas and make sure we take the field with the right intensity and mindset,” the coach added.
The Reds were without speedy defender Jacob Shaffelburg and midfielder Ralph Priso (lower body injuries).
The Reds lost Chris Mavinga in the 29th minute with a right leg injury, which was unfortunate as the veteran quarterback was just finding his form after missing several games earlier in the season.
Cincy’s goal came in the 44th minute after a terrible corner by Salcedo, a Designated Player who came into Toronto with a great reputation but has been very inconsistent. Murphy scored his first career MLS goal with a left footed shot from the center of the box in the lower right corner, assisting former TFC favorite Nick Hagglund, who headed a pass to Murphy after a corner.
Cincinnati’s second goal also came from a set piece, this time from a throw-in. Toronto’s centre-backs, including Salcedo, looked lost as Acosta received the ball in the area and kicked it with his right foot towards the goal for a 2-0 lead in the 52nd minute match. Alvas Powell helped.
Jimenez’s goal in the 65th minute was brilliant. TFC pressed hard late in Cincinnati with the goal coming as Michael Bradley passed the ball to the far post, quarterback Shane O’Neill headed into the center of the area and Jimenez scored with a right-foot shot to the back Right corner . O’Neill received an assist, his first in MLS.
Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono made a great save on Alvaro Barreal in added time, while Cincy made a counterattack.
As the clock ran out, TFC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo, who was a brilliant light offensively throughout the game for TFC, furiously kicked the ball out of bounds after referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere stopped play during an attack. of Toronto when a player from Cincinnati went down.
The two sides will meet again Wednesday night in Cincinnati.