Toronto FC shut out at home by FC Dallas

Toronto FC shut out at home by FC Dallas
To Michael Bradley, it was a frustrating turn of events, the only silver lining being that the loss came against a Western Conference side and not an East rival.

“We’ve got to look pretty closely at ourselves now and continue to understand where things need to improve, where we have to pick things up, because our margin for error is becoming slimmer and slimmer with every game,” Bradley said. “Obviously there’s a lot of games left. We still feel like we have a good team. We have a team that can win on a lot of days, but the reality right now is that we’re letting games slip away from us too consistently and … the margin for error is going with it.”

Toronto FC looks to build up some momentum

The MLS defending champions went into Friday with three players listed as questionable because of injuries: Nick Hagglund (hamstring), Justin Morrow (calf) and Nico Hasler (quadriceps). Another three were ruled out completely: Jozy Altidore (foot), Drew Moor (quadriceps) and Ashtone Morgan (hamstring). By the time the lineup was released, Marky Delgado, Ager Aketxe and Eriq Zavaleta had been added to that list, off the 18-man roster with less serious issues. And Chris Mavinga, who had only just returned to the starting 11 from injury a week earlier, was subbed out before halftime with hamstring tightness. The only bright spot: He was replaced by Hagglund, who made his second appearance of the year.

Bradley said he’s not sure he’s seen anything like the injury crisis Toronto has battled in the first few months of the season.

“It’s been a killer, just in terms of consistency, in terms of training quality, because we’re so low numbers on some days in terms of options come game time,” he said. “That part has been a challenge, but even with all that there’s no way we should lose the game tonight, regardless of who’s healthy and who’s not. That’s a game that should never, ever get away from us. The worst-case scenario should be that you walk away with a point.”

Toronto’s depleted ranks had a ripple effect on the lineup, with Bradley again pushed back into defence from his normal midfield role. It was a defensive miscue by the captain on a Dallas throw-in that led to the visitors’ game-changing counterattack, allowing midfielder Santiago Mosquero to break all the way to TFC’s byline before cutting the ball back into the penalty box for midfielder Kellyn Acosta. Forward Maximiliano Urruti deflected Acosta’s shot past Clint Irwin — starting while regular Alex Bono is on U.S. national team duty — for the winner. The goal came against the run of play.

Reds striker Sebastian Giovinco, who returned from a one-game suspension, had a free kick and close-range volley stopped by Dallas ’keeper Jesse Gonzalez before Dallas scored. And Giovinco earned a penalty minutes later after he was chopped down in the box, but Gonzalez got in front of the shot to preserve the lead.

Execution has been a problem, with just 14 goals in 11 league games.

“We put together 621 passes to 272, we played three quarters of the game in their half of the field,” coach Greg Vanney said. “We had 23 chances on goal, a lot of them good chances. Got to execute. You don’t execute, you don’t win games, doesn’t matter how you play, doesn’t matter how many passes you put together.”

It was a disappointing result on a night that had all the makings of a celebration. Toronto FC was hosting its second annual Pride Night, midfielder Jonathan Osorio became the first TFC player to reach 150 league appearances with his start, and the Reds were looking for their first back-to-back wins of the year. Instead, it devolved into an ugly affair, thanks to Toronto’s struggles in front of the net and Dallas’ time-wasting tactics. The strategy was regularly employed by the visitors starting late in the first half, particularly when Gonzalez took free kicks and when the visitors made the most out of fouls called in their favour. It amounted to seven minutes of injury time in the second half.

The Reds will spend the bulk of the next two months away from BMO Field, with seven of their next nine matches on the road. Vanney said they aren’t afraid of playing anywhere, but were disappointed to let down the home crowd.

“As much as anything, it’s about taking pride in winning games at home, because it’s our home and we’re in front of our fans. We’re in front of the city that supports us and we’re supposed to win games, and we didn’t win the game,” he said. “We outplayed the opposition in every capacity except putting the ball in the back of the net, and that’s ultimately the decider.”
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