Orlando City defender Mohamed El-Munir (13) and Toronto FC defender Auro (96) compete for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match Friday, May 18. 2018, in Toronto. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
TORONTO — It wasn’t the bounce-back game Orlando City coach Jason Kreis wanted.
Encouraging? Maybe. But not the response to an emotional loss the Lions needed in order to get back on track.
Orlando City, coming off its first loss in nearly a month, came out flat Friday night and fell 2-1 to a Toronto FC side desperate for points in front of an announced crowd of 28,009 at BMO Field. The loss marked the second time this season Orlando City has dropped back-to-back games.
“My honest opinion is I think we have to feel a little bit hard-done,” Kreis said. “We also have to continue to believe that if we continue to play this way, on most nights, we’re going to do better. We’re going to end up with more points than we have in this two-match stretch.
“Also, what it does is it means that next weekend’s a big, big game for us and we have to get all three points at home.”
The Lions (6-4-1, 19 points) are winless this season without the services of striker Dom Dwyer, who missed Friday’s match with a lower body injury. Kreis deployed striker Stéfano Pinho at the top of a 4-2-3-1 formation, but Pinho had a rough night.
“We’ve seen him have a lot better performances for us already this season,” Kreis said of Pinho. “It was a difficult night for him, but I’m sure that he’ll respond and be there to provide for us in the matches throughout the rest of the season.”
Dwyer is capable of scoring goals, but his hold-up play is valuable in that it allows Orlando City to get more numbers into the final third. Pinho couldn’t replicate that on Friday.
“We missed [Dwyer’s] hold-up play tonight, for sure,” Lions midfielder Sacha Kljestan said. “Look, there’s a reason why Dom’s our highest-paid player and why he’s leading our team in goals. So yeah, we miss him on a night like tonight. Hopefully, he get him back on the team soon.”
Both of Toronto’s goals came down to defensive breakdowns. The first came off the foot of Jay Chapman, who smashed home a rebound after a shot from Tosaint Ricketts went off the post in the 63rd minute.
The second was a late winner for the Reds after Orlando City equalized the match and looked like it had regained some footing. Toronto defender Auro beat left back Mohamed El-Munir to the end line and sent in a cross, which was volleyed home by midfielder Ryan Telfer.
“It’s typical that at the end of the game you’re going to have some mental mistakes,” Kreis said. “Mohamed made a mistake in the 1-v-1 defending situation there. He’s trying to win the ball when he just needs to stand the player up in the corner.
“He basically sold himself to that player. The player gets behind him to run along the end line. Serves a great ball, finds a free man coming in late into the box. That’s a mental error and I think he’s better on most nights.”
Orlando City’s attack didn’t do much to threaten Toronto FC until Josue Colmán was subbed on in the 61st minute. He assisted on midfielder Cristian Higuita’s goal, which leveled the match at a goal apiece.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) May 19, 2018
“[Colmán] brought some energy and some ideas and some running in behind,” Kreis said. “He’s a very intelligent and very gifted soccer player so we have to continue to work with him so he’s an all-around soccer player. We need him to be working both ways and you’ll continue to see more opportunities for him going forward, I’m quite certain of it.”
For most of the night, Toronto FC looked the more dangerous side. balls bounced around the penalty area for the Reds, and they nearly went up 2-0 in the second half, but had a goal waved off.
Neither club found much of an attacking rhythm in the first half. Toronto FC certainly had the better of the first-half chances – goalkeeper Joe Bendik had to come off his line a couple of times and had to deal with an extremely active Telfer – but Orlando City put some pressure on the Reds’ defense.
Holding midfielder Uri Rosell, making his first start of the season with Yoshi Yotún out due to yellow card accumulation, was the accurate distributor Kreis hoped he’d be – particularly in the first half.
“I think Uri and myself did a really good job,” Higuita said through a translator. “We combined well, but unfortunately we were unable to get a positive result.”
Orlando City returns to Orlando City Stadium next week for a match against the Chicago Fire.
“We want to win every game, especially when we play at home,” Kljestan said. “Even when we come on the road, we’re not the type of team that’s happy with just coming in and trying to bunker for a 0-0 draw. We’ve got a lot of good players. I’ve said this before: We’re humble and we’re hungry.
“I wouldn’t call Chicago a ‘must-win’ game, but every game we play at home we feel like we want to win.”