Following a 4-0 defeat away to Orlando City SC on Saturday evening, Toronto FC were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Facundo Torres opened the scoring in the 9th minute, moving in-field from the right before putting a quick shot past Quentin Westberg. Ercan Kara doubled the home side’s advantage in the 22nd minute on a quick transition that saw Mauricio Pereyra slot him in behind the back-line.
TFC looked to get back into the game and got to the break without conceding again, but an own-goal off Lukas MacNaughton in the 47th minute all but sealed the result and Tesho Akindele’s 84th minute addition ended it.
“We started a little bit slow and then the first time that they get anywhere near our box, it’s a goal so we're down,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “We get into the box in a moment where maybe we could do more and then when the ball turns over we've got some guys in bad positions on the second goal. One pass beats the line of defenders and we're not able to make the save.”
“Halftime is just about making sure we've got a group that on the night can keep going and physically and mentally see if we can get back into the game and then we top it off with an own-goal,” he continued. “A lot of the work tonight is to just keep everybody engaged in a real way. There are certain guys that you can always count on, they never stopped trying to keep going, win balls, play forward, but all in all not good enough and a really bad night.”
“With all the challenges of the year, we kept trying to see if we could find something at the end to keep going,” added the coach. “That's what we talked about before the game, but we weren't able to do it.”
So ends the 2022 season.
“Yeah, it’s been disappointing. Really disappointing,” said Michael Bradley. “It's been a hard year. A lot of different things to deal with, in so many ways.”
“For large parts of the year, even when things weren't perfect and even when things were stacked against us a little bit, we found good ways to keep going,” he continued. “Even on some hard days were able to really stick together and even when the football wasn't perfect, still find ways to stay in it, take some points, and feel like we were moving ourselves forward in a good direction – even if we weren't always rewarding ourselves in every way that we should have.”
“In this last stretch we've had to deal with some different things, the pure mentality and resilience of the group on the field to still keep going and to still, even as you get towards the end and you know it's not going to be easy to get into the playoffs, to do the things that we would like to do,” added the captain. “The frustration of certain things, the disappointment in certain moments, we've let that get the better of us.”
It was always going to be a big ask to reach the post-season. A strong run of form that spanned the end of July and the start of August made it possible, but tough sledding in the last three matches has ended that hope.
“We’ve hurt ourselves with mistakes,” levelled Bob Bradley. “You start a game and you're constantly feeling like anytime they get near your goal you're behind. Tonight, believe it or not, they don't really have that many chances. It's not like we're overrun, but when you hurt yourself over and over in the same ways.”
“We make mistakes in key parts of the field. In this last period, our goalkeeping hasn't been as good as it needs to be if you're going to make a real run and then the number of guys that you can count on every game, that keep up with the game, make the right choices, make the right plays, compete at the highest level,” he added. “We still need to add to the group.”
Toronto has conceded four goals in each of their last three matches.
“Football can be strange in moments,” said Michael Bradley. “Three games in a row we've given away too many goals.”
“Not that xG (expected goals – a measure that attempts to measure the quality of a chance and thereby indicate how many goals should be scored) is a perfect stat by any means, and certainly not when you're looking at it just from the standpoint of one game, but one of the statistics that I saw tonight gave us an xG against of like 0.95, so to give away four goals on an xG 0.95... frustrating,” he laid out – MLSsoccer.com lists Orlando’s xG as 1. “But we’ve got to now find the right ways to keep ourselves going over these last two games, still push forward, still find ways to improve and know that the work being done this year is still going to serve us well as we get into next year.”
TFC has two games left. They will host Inter Miami CF at BMO Field on September 30 when MLS returns from the September international break and then will hit the road to face the Philadelphia Union on Decision Day.
The hard looks at what comes next will begin after October 9.
“We're not to the offseason yet. We have two more games to play,” reminded Michael Bradley. “After that there'll be plenty of time to do everything, to look at ourselves in every possible way, but we're not to that point yet. As long as there's still two games to play, we're going to train and prepare and look at ourselves like we have after every one of the last 32 games and get ourselves ready to play.”
“The work that's being done right now, while it's not going to pay off in terms of the success that we would like this season, we still absolutely believe that the work to become a really good team is ongoing every single day and we're going to use every moment we have to keep pushing ourselves forward,” he underlined. “And when you get to the offseason, then you use that time to find different ways to make sure that we move ourselves forward and we're ready in a bigger way for next year.”
Close the season strong and look to 2023.
“We’re going to train and try to play two good games, try to continue to use every opportunity, every training session, every game, to keep this thing moving along,” replied Bob Bradley of the approach to the rest of the season. “I've spoken in the last few weeks about the work to get this thing where we want it to be, where it can be, where it will be.”
“The building of a team doesn't start at the beginning and then end at some point in the season or after the season,” he closed. “It keeps going.”