Toronto FC draws Colorado Rapids in game that got away

Colorado-Rapids-defender-Kortne-Ford-(24)-and-Toronto-FC-forward-Sebastian-Giovinco-(10)-battle-for-the-ball-during-second-half-MLS-soccer-action-in-Toronto-on-Saturday,-July-22,-2017.-(Nathan-Denette/CP)

Colorado Rapids defender Kortne Ford (24) and Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) battle for the ball during second half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, July 22, 2017. (Nathan Denette/CP)

• Colorado Rapids 1 (Badji 76’), Toronto FC 1 (Chapman 6’)
• Canadian Jay Chapman scored his first MLS goal
• Toronto unbeaten at home with a 7-0-3 record

TORONTO – When does a draw feel like a loss?

When you’ve dominated one of the worst road teams in the league at home for most of the game, but you fail to put them away and let them stick around to inexplicably grab a point off of you.

Such was the story on Saturday night, as Toronto FC took an early lead and then squandered several scoring chances before settling for a 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids.

Playing in his 37th Major League Soccer game, Canadian Jay Chapman scored the first goal of his career, while Dominique Badji replied for the Rapids, who before Saturday had lost all seven of their road matches this MLS campaign. Toronto was attempting to win its eighth in a row at home, and for the longest time it looked like it was a mere formality. Then Badji scored in the 76th minute to silence the 28,060 fans in attendance at BMO Field.

The goal came against the run of play, off a TFC turnover in midfield. Up until that point the Reds bossed the game, but they couldn’t build upon Chapman’s goal in the sixth minute. Toronto let Colorado hang around instead of finishing them off, and that was the difference on this night.

In settling for a draw, Toronto blew a chance to open up a four-point lead atop the overall standings over the Chicago Fire, who lost to New York City FC earlier in the day.

It was a sombre post-match scene in the TFC locker-room after the game. You could tell the players were disappointed and felt as though they let three points slip through their fingers.

“It’s a game that we’ll learn from,” Chapman said.

He later added: “We just have to be a little more fluid when we’re building up our attacks and taking our chances.”

It was a sentiment echoed by assistant coach Robin Fraser.

“I don’t think we were as sharp as we needed to be. We turned the ball over in some tough spots and lost some momentum early on because of it,” Fraser stated.

Coach Greg Vanney was suspended for this game after being ejected from Wednesday’s 2-2 draw against NYCFC at Yankee Stadium. Fraser took charge of TFC in Vanney’s absence. Toronto was also missing captain Michael Bradley, forward Jozy Altidore and left wingback Justin Morrow, who are all away with the United States at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Right wingback Steven Beitashour remained unavailable as he’s still recovering from pancreas surgery.

Toronto made six lineup changes from Wednesday, including at goalkeeper where Clint Irwin started ahead of Alex Bono. Out since mid-May with a torn MCL, youngster Nick Hagglund returned and started in the centre of defence, while veteran Drew Moor was on the bench. Instead of rookie Ben Spencer, Chapman started up top in support of Sebastian Giovinco. Canadian Raheem Edwards and Tsubasa Endoh started as the outside wingbacks.

The first half was all one-way traffic, with TFC dominating possession (60.2 per cent), dictating the tempo of the match, and pinning Colorado inside its half of the field for long stretches. Six minutes in, Giovinco chased down a Victor Vazquez pass before it went over the end-line and played it across the box. Endoh’s shot was saved by Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but Chapman scored on the rebound with a powerful header.

It was an especially sweet moment for Chapman, who had a goal controversially disallowed after coming on as substitute in New York.

“I was just happy to get the start. I thought I had a pretty good performance against NYCFC when I came on, so I was happy that the coaching staff gave me another shot today,” Chapman said.

Benoit Cheyrou came out of the game in the 38th minute with an apparent leg injury after being on the receiving end of a tough tackle. Canadian Tosaint Ricketts replaced him as Fraser went to a fluid formation: 3-5-2 when TFC was attacking, and 5-3-2 when defending, with the two wingbacks dropping into the back line.

Giovinco nearly doubled the score when he whipped a free kick from 25 yards out that MacMath did well to tip over the crossbar. Chapman should have had a second goal just after halftime while having a clear look on goal. Instead, he blasted his shot well over the net.

Irwin was finally called into action in the 66th minute when he made a fine save off a header from Colorado’s Kevin Doyle. The Rapids levelled the score 10 minutes later when an Armando Cooper giveaway led to a transitional attack that saw Badji beat Irwin with a low shot at the near post after he fought off Hagglund and fellow defender Chris Mavinga.

“Turnovers are momentum killers. A turnover that leads to something like that is tough to come back from. It was just not us at our best,” Fraser explained.

Tensions boiled over throughout the final minutes, as Colorado players dropped to the ground under the slightest of challenges in order to stop play and run out the clock, infuriating the home side as it furiously pressed for the winning goal.

“That’s a common theme when teams come [here]. It’s one of the hardest places to play in the league, especially when we’re on our game. You’re going to see a lot of teams do that. That’s what Colorado is good at,” Chapman offered.

NOTES: Toronto leads the all-time series against Colorado with eight wins and two draws in 16 contests. Saturday marked the only meeting of the season between the clubs… Canadian defender Ashtone Morgan, TFC’s longest-serving payer, came on as a substitute in the second half to earn his 100th regular-season appearance… TFC returns to action next Sunday when it hosts NYCFC.

TFC Pitchside will provide Toronto FC supporters with an inside look into their favourite obsession Monday nights at 11 pm ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Call it an all-access pass for all things MLS brought to you by co-hosts Dan Riccio, Thomas Michalakos and producer Amil Delic. You'll hear from the biggest names around the club, and the MLS. You'll also get reviews and previews of every TFC game with reports from Pitchside at training and on game days at BMO Field. The Six is about to get done!

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