Toronto FC lost a tight one on Saturday night, falling 2-1 to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at BMO Field.
Following an even first half, Deandre Kerr scored the opening goal in the 50th minute, pouncing on a lovely ball in behind the Vancouver back-line from Lorenzo Insigne to put Toronto ahead.
But the Whitecaps levelled six minutes later from a corner kick, with Tristan Blackmon steering a Ryan Raposo corner kick into the back of the net and Brian White added a second in the 66th minute when Ryan Gauld was able to pick him out in the box for a free header.
“Vancouver are a really good team, a really well-organized team, that were fighting to go into the top four tonight,” said Terry Dunfield post-match. “They don't give you a ton. We just edged it in the first half, it was close.”
“Looking at our metrics at half-time, some detail, went out, got a goal, which was great. It was great to see BMO Field on its feet again,” he continued. “And then a turnover leads to a set-piece and our organization is not quite right.”
“It's a good header from Blackmon and we struggled to come back from that punch. The second goal we could have gone tight to Gauld, we decide to drop off, protect what's behind us – that's fine. We know that relationship between Gauld and White is good. There's one player in the box versus our six and it's in the back of the net,” Dunfield outlined. “Up until the goals I thought it was a nice performance against a good side.”
Toronto had hoped to build some momentum out of a good performance against the Philadelphia Union at the end of August, but the battle of moments went against them on the night.
“We did a lot of good things and some bad things, it's how the game goes,” said Tomás Romero. “A lot of guys put in good shifts, worked pretty hard, but we just came up short. It's unfortunate, but it's just how it is. It's the game that we play.”
Summarized Kerr: “It was a pretty even match, could have gone either way. They capitalized on two chances, we got one.”
With two-and-a-half weeks since that last outing, TFC had to shake off a little rust in the opening passages.
“We expected it. We felt like there would be a little bit of clunkiness,” said Dunfield. “Once we got to 10-15 minutes we started to find some rhythm and find ways around, through, or over Vancouver's midfield wall and started to create some nice attacks.”
It took until the second half for either side to find the breakthrough. When it came, it came quickly.
A moment of transition. Raoul Petretta swept a ball forward towards Insigne in the centre-circle, he spotted Kerr’s movement into space and deftly fed a ball up the middle for his teammate to run onto.
“As the ball was in the air I saw there was a lot of space in front of me,” explained Kerr. “A quality pass from Lorenzo. I tried to keep my composure in front of goal and put it in the corner.”
It was a long way from getting clear and stroking it into the back of the net.
“Just telling myself to stay calm,” recounted the 20-year-old forward. “It's easy to get excited and fluff the chance. Just ‘stay calm, stay calm.’ I got a good look at the corner and told myself to put it there.”
Dunfield was pleased with the striker’s performance.
“In the first half he pushed that back-three back, opening space for others. He was a little bit selfless at times,” highlighted the interim head coach. “In the second half it was an amazing bit of quality from Lorenzo – that's what he can do on the half turn – and then you just see the athleticism, composure, and technique of Deandre come out one-vs-one. As soon as he's through, you know it’s a goal.”
It was Kerr’s fifth goal of the season and second in as many games.
Insigne’s assist was a return of favour for the one Kerr teed up for him against Philadelphia.
“It's been great to have Lorenzo back,” said Dunfield. “The way Lorenzo plays timing is so important. A lot of his actions are implicit and if he's having to think, ‘is a player going to run in depth’ or ‘is he going to be on the same wavelength with me,’ it leads to taking an extra touch, but when it all comes together, it does look like that sequence on the first goal.”
But two moments up the other end spoiled the night.
The first was a corner kick following a turnover where Blackmon got free and was able to meet Raposo’s delivery. The second a Gauld cross for White that again went unopposed.
Two moments of inattention that proved costly.
“We let Gauld dribble up the field without putting any real pressure on him. We reacted to the play versus being proactive,” lamented Romero. “You can't let a DP dribble up the field like that and give him time. He's going to do what he's good at.”
Toronto now faces two road games in quick succession. They will travel to Florida to face Inter Miami CF on Wednesday and then head to New York City for a clash with NYCFC on Saturday.
Leo Messi, fresh off his exploits during the international window with Argentina, was rested on Saturday night when Miami fell to Atlanta United. It is expected he will return midweek.
“That’s going to be a big game for everybody. All the eyes are on that type of game,” said Romero. “As a player, it's a high pressure game and when everyone's watching you want to do your best and perform as a team; perform as an individual.”
“If we can go into that game with that mentality, we'll make it as hard as possible for Miami,” he continued. “And then following that, we'll focus for Saturday.”
TFC will remain in Miami after the match before making their way back north for Saturday’s match.
“We wanted to keep a real nice feeling from Philly and build a little bit of momentum to go down to Miami, but it’s just our luck right now that we're going to play a rested Messi,” Dunfield closed. “The guys will be looking forward to going down to Inter Miami, we'll train there for a day or two and head to New York.”