Toronto FC’s learning curve has suddenly become bumpy.
A four-game undefeated run (3-0-1) turned into a three-game losing streak as goals from Calvin Harris and Luciano Acosta helped FC Cincinnati beat 10-man Toronto FC 2-0 on Wednesday for its second win over TFC in four days.
“I would say there are a lot of lessons thus far,” said Toronto coach Bob Bradley of his young team. “There was a period where we made some progress and now we have reached a small point where it has gone against us, but we have to be strong. You don’t make a good team when a few things work against you and everyone starts looking in the wrong direction. You have to go through the most important details every day.”
The Force was not at Toronto (3-5-2) for “Stars Wars Night” at TQL Stadium. TFC conceded a goal in the second minute and then saw midfielder Ralph Priso’s yellow card turn red in the third minute after video review.
Toronto rallied after trailing 1-0, but got stuck at the final whistle.
“The rest of the (first) half was subpar,” Cincinnati coach Pat Noonan said of his squad’s performance after taking the early lead.
“And then I was happy with the second half, when I found the second goal, despite it coming from a PK (penalty kick),” he added. “And then we could certainly have done better by scoring a few more goals. We left some goals behind, but I was happy with the way we settled in that second half.”
With the win, Cincinnati jumped (4-5-1) past Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings. After a 0-2-0 start to the season, Cincinnati has now won four of its last eight (4-3-1) after just three wins in its previous 31 games.
The four wins match Cincinnati’s total last season when it went 4-22-8 to finish last in the then 27-team league. TFC placed 26th on 6-18-10.
TFC are now winless in their last 13 league games on the road (0-9-4), having not won from home in competition since a 2-1 win in Chicago on July 24.
Bradley faced an exhausted roster in the wake of Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Cincinnati at BMO Field.
Mexican centre-back Carlos Salcedo and striker Ifunanyachi Achara were not available in health and safety protocols. Fellow defender Chris Mavinga, a French-born Congolese international, was out with a leg injury that forced him out of the game in the 29th minute.
Toronto was also without the injured Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Noble Okello and Jacob Shaffelburg. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio did not make the trip after suffering a lower body injury during training that has not yet been fully diagnosed. An MRI is scheduled.
“I don’t think it’s very bad, but it sticks, so that’s a concern,” Bradley said.
Kadin Chung, Lukas McNaughton and Priso got into starting 11 ahead of Salcedo, Mavinga and Osorio.
Toronto had six Canadian starters plus six more natives on the bench.
Toronto’s makeshift defense was ripped open in the second minute by a swift move that started with Cincinnati goalkeeper Roman Celentano. Three paces later, Brandon Vazquez was faster than McNaughton before he found Harris, who had sprinted Luca Petrasso with centre-back Shane O’Neill out of position, to get in front of the goal and beat Alex Bono, who stranded deep in his goal, in front of his goal. first MLS goal of his career.
It marked Toronto’s fourth goal in the first 15 minutes of the game this season. TFC has not kept a clean sheet in its last 18 league outings since September 26, when it tied 0-0 in Colorado.
90 seconds later things went from bad to worse when 19-year-old Priso Obinna Nwobodo, Cincinnati’s new designated player, made his first MLS start, with a vicious tackle that saw the studs grab the Nigerian midfielder by the knee. Referee Lukasz Szpala initially pulled out a yellow, but improved it to red after video review, bringing Toronto back to 10 men.
A distraught Priso, whose start to the season was interrupted by injury, held his head in his hands as he left the field. His first campaign start lasted all six minutes.
Priso joined Salcedo this season in seeing red. Salcedo and Jayden Nelson were also given one-game suspensions from the MLS Disciplinary Committee for misconduct deemed worthy of a red card.
Acosta made it 2-0 from the penalty spot 57 minutes into the game after Chung was deemed to have knocked out Alvaro Barreal in another attack down the wing that once again disorganized the Toronto defense when Acosta found his Argentine compatriot on the edge of the penalty area with a beautiful curling cross.
With his team playing three games in eight days, Bradley went to his bench after the goal, eliminating Jesus Jimenez and Alejandro Pozuelo. Toronto’s next game is in Vancouver on Sunday.
A goal by Barreal in the 69th minute was recalled for offside. Bono nearly gave Cincinnati a goal in the 85th minute when he dropped a cross, but Brazilian forward Brenner shot wide of the mark.
It marked the 18th all-time win in the league for Cincinnati, now in its fourth season. Four of those wins were against Toronto and two more against Montreal.
Cincinnati should have led 2-0 in the eighth minute in what was a virtual repeat of the build-up to the first goal, but Acosta was unable to recreate Harris’s finish, instead sending the ball high.
TFC unsuccessfully appealed for a penalty after Jesus Jimenez went down in the penalty area under a Junior Moreno challenge in the 45th minute.
Toronto needed a reinforcement of the roster and earlier in the day signed Themi Antonoglou, Kobe Franklin, Paul Rothrock and Steffen Yeates on short-term loans from TFC II. All four were on the couch on Wednesday.
Yates, 22, and Franklin, 18, made their first-team debuts from the bench in the second half.