Toronto FC’s road back to respectability hit another bump on Saturday.
Goals from Dylan Teves and Fredy Montero propelled the struggling Seattle Sounders to a 2-0 victory over Toronto in an MLS game that left the TFC players and coach frustrated.
Toronto (5-10-3) was disengaged in the first half and paid for defensive slack on both ends.
Coach Bob Bradley, tasked with overseeing a massive overhaul of an underperforming 6-18-10 team that finished second-to-last in the then-27-team league in 2021, didn’t mince words after the game.
“A frustrating night,” he said. “I’m disappointed because I think most nights lately we still feel like things have gotten better. But tonight (in) the first half, (it) wasn’t the case.”
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Toronto captain Michael Bradley, son of Bob, was equally forceful.
“The first half was not good enough. Too slow, not sharp enough. Insufficient intensity. Just not in the way that we want to play by any means,” she said.
TFC likely needs more help than Italian newcomers Lorenzo Insigne and Domenico Criscito, who are waiting in the wings. But he also needs time, given that 20 players left after last season.
“Anyone who’s been here this last stretch knew it’s going to take a little bit of time to put the pieces back together solidly and build a real team,” said Michael Bradley. “A team that can play football, a team that has the right mentality, a team that can be resilient, a team that can win.
“Again, anyone who’s been around here knew there was no quick fix, there was no magic dust, and all of a sudden everything was going to be perfect. We knew that. But tonight, especially the first half, it’s not good enough.”
At times, it’s been one step forward and two steps back this season. Bob Bradley has had to rely on a lot of young talent who are still learning the way from him.
When everything clicks, Toronto can move the ball quickly and intelligently, putting the opposition under pressure. But on nights like Saturday, the offense falters, the defense falters and the midfield is overwhelmed.
Teves, who scored in his first career start, took advantage of Toronto’s poor defense to put Seattle (8-7-2) ahead in the 39th minute. Montero, a former Vancouver Whitecaps forward, added to the lead in the 60th minute when TFC’s baseline fell short again.
The Sounders opened the scoring late on their first shot on goal. An accurate clearance by goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland found Jimmy Medranda near midfield, who controlled the ball and sent it to Leo Chu down the flank. Chu got past defender Carlos Salcedo and sent a cross that Teves, outmaneuvering central defender Chris Mavinga, deflected from close range.
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Salcedo missed the midweek game due to a family health issue.
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Teves, a 22-year-old midfielder from Hawaii, was a college star at the University of Washington and helped the Huskies finish runner-up in the 2021 NCAA men’s soccer championship. Before Saturday, he had made just one appearance in 18 minutes off the bench for the Sounders.
Toronto’s defense was broken open again in the second half by Seattle captain Nicolas Lodeiro, who had two teammates to choose from with the TFC backline in disarray. He opted for Montero, who easily beat helpless goalkeeper Quentin Westberg for his second of the season and 82nd of his MLS career.
Toronto has now conceded goals in 26 consecutive league games. His last shutout was on July 25, 2021, when he tied 0-0 at Colorado.
Insigne and Criscito were part of the announced crowd of 23,954 at BMO Field on a warm night. Both players are eligible to make their TFC debuts next Saturday against the visiting San Jose Earthquakes after the league’s secondary transfer window officially opens on Thursday.
The two Italians received a standing ovation when they were introduced at halftime.
Toronto, which lost 2-1 to visiting Columbus in midweek, came into the game having won two of its last four league games (2-0-2), but was 2-7-1 in its last 10 Departures.
The Sounders have bounced back from a poor 2-5-1 start to the season, though their four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) ended in a 2-1 midweek loss to visiting CF Montreal that scored the first Seattle loss since May 22.
Seattle has lost just two of its last nine MLS games (6-2-1) despite an injured list that includes Peruvian forward Raúl Ruidíaz, forward Will Bruin and Ecuadorian defender Xavier Arreaga.
Seattle goaltender Stefan Frei, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Albert Rusnak did not travel to Toronto, forcing Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer to deepen his roster with Ruidiaz and Rusnak, both designated players, unavailable.
Saturday marked the first meeting between the two teams since the Sounders defeated Toronto 3-1 in the 2019 MLS Cup Final in Seattle.
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Only five Toronto starters from that championship game remain with the team. Lodeiro, the Sounders’ other designated player, was Seattle’s only 2019 MLS Cup starter in Saturday’s starting eleven.
Toronto and Seattle have met just 15 times in the regular season with the Sounders holding a 10-3-2 series lead.
Seattle has now won the last four meetings, with Toronto’s last win coming in the 2017 MLS Cup Final: a 2-0 win for TFC at BMO Field.
Saturday’s game marked the 100th appearance in Toronto in all competitions for Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo. The 30-year-old designated player, who joined Toronto in 2019 and earned league MVP honors in 2020, is out of contract at the end of the season.
Once again, Pozuelo was Toronto’s best attacking threat. He led the team with 117 touches, completed 91.8 percent of his passes and was handled roughly by Sounders tacklers on more than a few occasions.
Westberg, who missed midweek against Columbus with a bruised knee, was back in goal for Toronto. Salcedo and Canadian midfielder Jonathan Osorio also returned, replacing Shane O’Neill and Ralph Priso.
Canadian referee Silviu Petrescu let little go and issued three yellow cards, two for Seattle and one for Toronto, in the first half. He dealt two more, to Seattle, in the second half.
Toronto forward Ayo Akinola was pulled at halftime for the second straight game. He only had 11 touches in the midweek loss and 10 touches on Saturday.
As in the midweek game against Columbus, Toronto pressed as the second half wore on, but failed to break down Seattle’s defense.
Toronto outshot Seattle 13-11 (6-4 from shooting on goal) and had 61.7 percent of the possession.
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