• San Jose Earthquakes 2 (Wondolowski 37’, 81’), Toronto FC 1 (Laryea 28’)
• Toronto now winless in 5 after losing 2nd straight match
• Michael Bradley’s consecutive MLS game streak ends at 41
TORONTO – Things continue to go from bad to worse for Toronto FC.
Playing without three key starters, including captain Michael Bradley, TFC suffered a 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday night before an announced crowd of 23,524 fans at BMO Field.
Toronto dropped to 5-6-2 on the MLS season, and is now winless in five straight games (four losses and one draw), with its last victory coming on May 4. It’s a shocking run of form when you consider the Reds started the season with three consecutive wins and were unbeaten through their first four games.
What’s been the recurring theme for Toronto during this five-game winless run? Coach Greg Vanney explained it’s a “lack of execution,” both in not finishing off goal chances and committing defensive mistakes that allow the opposition to score.
“Goals change games. If you can put [the ball] into the back of the net, it changes the emotion and the mentality of the group, and the feeling of the group. When opportunities go missing it gets frustrating. It feels like it puts more weight in your defending effort, because you can’t make mistakes on the defending side. Execution is a big part of it,” Vanney told reporters after the game.
It was a sentiment echoed by veteran defender Drew Moor.
“I said after [last week’s loss in Salt Lake], we have to quit conceding goals. That’s up to all of us, not just the defenders and the goalkeeper; it’s us as a unit [having] more pride in not allowing goals. We have to take our chances at the other end, as well. We’re not scoring enough right now, either,” Moor offered.
Vanney bemoaned how his team defended on both of San Jose’s goals, scored by goal-poacher and MLS all-time leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. He called out his players for not cutting out the cross into Wondolowski and for allowing the Earthquakes forward too much space inside the penalty area.
“I think it’s B.S. He can score 150 [career] goals in our league, 120 of them are the same way, and we don’t have the presence in the situation to find him and know where he is. That has to be better,” Vanney fumed.
It’s far too early in the season to push the panic button. But TFC is trending in the wrong direction at the moment, and the summer transfer period can’t come soon enough with the team badly needing upgrades in some positions.
“There are pieces of the puzzle that are still missing that will help us [in attack] on the execution side. There’s pieces in the back that are still missing that might help us to be a little more stable in terms of goal prevention,” Vanney admitted.
TFC was without influential playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo through suspension. Also missing were Bradley (sore hamstring) and Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio (hip and groin). Moor wore the captain’s armband on the night, while forward Jozy Altidore made his first start in seven games after missing significant time due to adductor and heel injuries.
The absence of Bradley, the club’s iron man, marked the first MLS game he missed since last April when he was rested in back-to-back contests due to TFC’s CONCACAF Champions League commitments. Before Sunday, Bradley played in 41 consecutive MLS games, and had sat out only six MLS matches since the start of the 2017 season.
Bradley has missed MLS action before because of suspension and international duty. But the last time an injury sidelined him from league play was when he missed seven games after injuring his knee with the U.S. national team at the 2016 Copa America.
Vanney said Bradley is questionable for TFC’s next match, which is on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 31.
With Bradley and Osorio unavailable, Canadians Liam Fraser and Richie Laryea earned rare starts for the Reds. Vanney used a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Fraser deployed just in front of the defence and Altidore serving as the main attacker up front.
Toronto started brightly as Auro Jr. forced a save from San Jose goalkeeper Daniel Vega with a left-footed shot from just outside the box. Later, Laryea almost scored after dancing his way through the Earthquakes defence before firing an angled shot wide of the far post.
Laryea quickly made amends, notching his first career MLS goal off a wonderfully worked play. Altidore held off his defensive marker to head Auro’s throw-in towards Marky Delgado, who then cut the ball back to the top of the six-yard box for Laryea to thump into the roof of the net with a one-timer. It was TFC’s first goal from open play in five games, and ended the team’s foul drought at 219 consecutive minutes.
“I’m happy to score, but I would take not scoring and us winning,” Laryea said.
Toronto’s lead was short-lived. Reds defender Ashtone Morgan didn’t close down San Jose’s Cristian Espinoza quickly enough as he delivered a cross into the box, allowing Wondolowski to beat Moor to the ball and fire it past goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
Tensions nearly boiled over during the first 25 minutes of the second half. Rash tackles became the norm and the play on the field became very scrappy, while referee Nima Saghafi handed out three yellow cards.
Delgado nearly restored TFC’s lead, but he squandered a great scoring chance when he headed an exquisite cross into the box from Altidore over the crossbar while having Vega at his mercy.
San Jose went out in front on a play that was almost an exact replica of their first goal, with Espinoza feeding Wondolowski who hit a shot that Westberg should have stopped. It was Wondolowski’s MLS-leading 150th career goal, and he has now scored 11 times in 15 games against Toronto.
“He got some good service and found a couple of soft spots on us. [On the first goal] I have to be closer to him. I thought I had him, I was right there, and I don’t know how it went by me, or under me or around me. That’s why he’s scored [so many] goals. He finds a way to put the ball in the back of the net. It has to be better from myself, and we have to deny him the service, as well,” Moor offered.
NOTES: Former TFC forward Sebastian Giovinco was in attendance for Sunday’s game, sitting in a private box with team president Bill Manning… San Jose leads the all-time series against Toronto, with six wins and five draws in 16 games… Saturday marked the only meeting of the season between these two sides…