Toronto FC drops 5th straight as FC Cincinnati takes shutout victory
CF Montreal draws Nashville FC; Whitecaps draw against undefeated Seattle
Ten games into Toronto FC's season and the alarm bells are ringing louder every time out.
With his team playing its third game in a week, coach Chris Armas rang in the changes in both personnel and formation. But it was the same old story as Toronto (1-7-2) shot itself in the foot, giving up a goal in the fourth minute.
"Exactly what we didn't need," said Armas, whose team is now 0-6-1 this season when conceding the first goal.
Goals by Allan Cruz, in the fourth minute, and Luciano Acosta, in the 68th, added to Toronto's misery in the latest in a line of uneven performances. Toronto is now winless in six games and its record in all competitions this season is 2-9-3.
WATCH | Acosta's goal seals win for Cincinnati FC over Toronto FC:
'Winners don't accept this'
The last time TFC lost five in a row was in April-May 2013.
Five points in 10 games represents the second-worst start in club history. The only worse opening was 2012 when the team lost nine straight.
Watching Armas after games has become almost painful. A likeable, hard-working coach who clearly cares deeply about what he does, he struggles for answers.
As do supporters, who wonder about the team's nosedive.
On Saturday, Armas embarked on an almost stream-of-consciousness soliloquy when asked what he tells the team at a time like this.
"There's a lot of winners in that room. And winners don't accept this," said Armas, in his first year at TFC's helm. "Imagine our supporters. It's disaster. I'm embarrassed. I'm tasked to do a job here. And yeah, we all know it's been hard. You play without your DPs [designated players], you can go down the list. It's not time to do that. You've got to figure a solution. You can't accept this. Chris Armas doesn't accept this, supporters [don't accept this]. It's sickening."
Injuries and other factors
And while Armas steers away from such, there are mitigating factors.
Due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, Saturday's contest marked Toronto's 25th league game away from home since its last match at BMO Field on Sept. 1, 2020. And Toronto was without all three of its designated players.
Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, the league's reigning MVP, did not dress after being substituted at halftime in Nashville due to hamstring tightness. Winger Yeferson Soteldo, recovered from his own hamstring injury, is with Venezuela at the Copa America.
That's a lot of the team's creativity away from the pitch.
And Jozy Altidore remains on the outs with the club, training separately while talks continue about his future. That's US$3.6 million worth of striker gathering dust and distraction.
Still Toronto keeps making the same mistakes.
TFC, which gave up goals in the first and eighth minute in a 3-2 loss to Orlando City last weekend, has conceded a league-worst six goals in the first 15 minutes of play this season. As in previous games, its play improved after the early blunder but it could not restore order.
Cincinnati outshot Toronto 10-3 (4-1 in shots on target).
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Cincinnati packed its defence in the second half, content to sit back and pack its end of the field while hoping for a counter-attack if Toronto overcommitted. The second goal came in the 68th minute with Acosta, a diminutive Argentine designated player, curling a beautiful shot past Bono from outside the penalty box.
It started with a Cincinnati throw-in just on its side of midfield. TFC defender Eriq Zavaleta's header went straight to Japanese midfielder Yuya Kubo, who survived Ayo Akinola's challenge to drive into the heart of Toronto territory before finding Brandon Vazquez in the penalty box. He sent the ball back to Acosta who, ignoring the nine TFC players in front of him, hit a wonder-strike.
"It's true the mistakes are hurting us. Constantly being down and chasing these games is tough," said veteran fullback Justin Morrow.
"If there's a positive it feels like we are hurting ourselves," he added. "And if we can clean that up then I think there's a lot there for us on the other side."
'We have everything we need'
The 33-year-old Morrow, a 12-year-veteran, is not hitting the panic button.
"I think everyone understands that we have everything we need in the locker-room to make it right," he said. "But we're just hurting ourselves right now."
Cincinnati (3-5-1) came into the game at Exploria Stadium 24th overall in the league standings. Toronto, which finished second in the Supporters' Shield race last season, languishes in 26th place.
Cincinnati was 4-21-3 on the road in its first two seasons.
Armas made five changes to the starting 11 that lost 3-2 midweek at Nashville SC, shifted to a three-man backline with Zavaleta, Omar Gonzalez and Chris Mavinga and started Patrick Mullins and Dom Dwyer as a tandem up front.
For Zavaleta, it was his 100th career MLS regular-season start.
Quentin Westberg, who had started the last two games in goal, did not dress due to a finger injury. He had appeared to jam his hand against the crossbar making a save off a Daniel Lovitz free kick midweek in Nashville. Bono, who had started the first seven league games, returned with 23-year-old Kevin Silva serving as backup.
Delgado had a chance to make up for his earlier gaffe but goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer somehow managed to stop his point-blank header in the 18th minute after a fine run by Richie Laryea. Toronto also had chances in a 30th-minute goalmouth scramble as mayhem ensued after Gonzalez headed a Michael Bradley free kick back in front of goal.
A timely intervention by Cincinnati defender Ronald Matarrita in the 35th minute denied Mullins after Dwyer found him in front of goal.
Dwyer had two good scoring chances early in the second half, putting the ball in the net on one, but both were ruled offside.
Cincinnati brought on former TFC defender Nick Hagglund in the 52nd minute to bolster the backline.
Toronto came into the game ranking 26th on defence, conceding an average of 2.00 goals a game. Only Cincinnati, at 2.13, had leaked more goals per game. TFC had conceded a league-worst 18 goals.
Toronto had won all three previous encounters with Cincinnati, with an 8-2 edge in goals.
Nashville FC draws CF Montreal following Danladi's late goal
CF Montreal coach Wilfried Nancy wants to see his side be better at holding onto leads and stop conceding late goals.
"A tie in Nashville is a good result also, but we need to improve to keep our advantage when we have a chance to do it," said Nancy. "Don't forget we have a young team. We need to learn about that. We knew that from the beginning. It's a process again.
"Before the game, I would have said that a draw is not a bad result, but with the way this game played out, we have regrets. We have to make better decisions."
Danladi headed home Jack Maher's short cross from close range to help Nashville (3-1-6) earn its fifth come-from-behind result of the season.
WATCH | Danladi's goal in stoppage time leads to draw against Montreal:
Nancy felt the seven minutes of stoppage time tacked on to the end of the game, during which Danladi scored the equalizer, were excessive.
"I didn't understand," said Nancy. "Yes, there were stoppages during the game. But seven minutes, we were surprised. We asked for explanations."
Aljaz Struna scored in the 63rd minute for Montreal, redirecting Djordje Mihailovic's corner with the back of his head.
CF Montreal goalkeeper James Pantemis got the start in net with regular starter Clement Diop out (leg injury) for at least a few weeks. Diop was injured in Wednesday's 0-0 draw with D.C. United.
"It's always sad to see a teammate go down with an injury," said Pantemis. "You don't wish that to anyone. But personally, I take this opportunity to prove myself and show the club that they can trust me. I will take this challenge.
"I'm happy with most of my game. I would have liked to be clearer with my passes. I will work on that this week. The result is disappointing because we were solid defensively."
Struggling Whitecaps notch tie with unbeaten Sounders
The Sounders (7-0-4) moved within a game of the MLS record for the longest season-opening unbeaten streak held by the Los Angeles Galaxy (1996, 2010), Kansas City (2000) and Real Salt Lake (2014).
"What I complimented the team after the game was they never quit," Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said. "A lot of teams in MLS, they go down and you end up losing all the points. ... We were fighting. We were going for all three [points]."
WATCH | Whitecaps score twice in 2nd half to draw against Seattle:
Playing on a steamy night in Seattle with record temperatures that reached 102 degrees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Whitecaps took a 2-1 lead scoring twice in six minutes early in the second half on a pair of defensive errors by Seattle.
"Did I believe in the win? Yes, absolutely," said Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos. "Especially when it was 2-1. Am I happy with the point? I think every team that comes to Seattle and gets a point, it's a positive thing.
"We proved that we can beat a team that can go anywhere and get points."
Medranda was an unlikely candidate to score the equalizer with his last MLS goal coming in 2018 playing for Sporting Kansas City. But he was in the right spot to collect the rebound off a corner kick and drive a shot past Vancouver goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau in the 71st minute to draw Seattle even.
Medranda played just three matches last season between Seattle and Nashville.
"It was a tough 11 months being out because of many different reasons: the pandemic, injuries and things like that," Medranda said through an interpreter. "This is good to be getting back after all this. This is the first year I'll be able to get some more continuity and happy to be able to score."
Raul Ruidiaz scored his ninth goal of the season in the first half for Seattle, capping a precision counter attack started by Josh Atencio. Ruidiaz and Fredy Montero both had excellent scoring chances in the second half but couldn't find a winner for the Sounders.
Cristian Dajome scored in the opening moments of the second half off an error from Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland and Lucas Cavallini gave Vancouver (2-6-2) the lead six minutes later. The Whitecaps had lost five straight and earned a point for the first time since their May 8 win over Montreal.
"Today we played some really good football," said Dajome through an interpreter. "We're happy. It's a step forward. It's been five tough games for us, five games that we've been losing. We made some difficult mistakes in those games but we went back to training to fix those."
Added Dos Santos: "We have to take this game (and) grow. It was an environment that is extremely difficult, against a very good team that fought a lot."
Seattle had not allowed a goal during the open run of play through the first 10 games. Seattle's five goals allowed in the first 10 games all came from penalty kicks (three) or direct free kicks (two).
The streak nearly ended in the dying seconds of the first half when a bad turnover by Alex Roldan led to a chance for Deiber Caicedo, but his shot was kicked aside by Cleveland.
The streak finally ended at 949 minutes for Seattle after Cleveland was caught out of his net and Dajome scored his fourth goal of the season.
"We'll just learn and keep moving forward because we understood that a goal from the run of play was going to happen," Schmetzer said.
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With files from The Associated Press