Looking to bounce back from their first regular-season loss and take a large step towards clinching the Canadian Championship, Toronto FC go for a sweep of their three matches versus the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night.
Toronto’s bid to equal the longest unbeaten streak in league history fell one match short with Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact. Alejandro Pozuelo may have been too clever by half in first-half stoppage time when he opted to roll his penalty forward to let Pablo Piatti rush to take it, but Piatti entered the penalty arc before blasting it past Quentin Westberg, resulting in encroachment and loss of possession.
“Not sure what was going on the penalty kick. We’re down a goal, we should just be burying the ball in the back of the net and move on,” TFC coach Greg Vanney admitted to The Toronto Sun. “The game ended up being very open. Defensively we were pressing a touch too much and when we weren’t quite ready to press, they were able to find time between our lines. And the game gets stretched out, it gets open, I think players start to get tired.”
Adding injury to the insult of the defeat was the loss of talisman Michael Bradley, who was the recipient of a challenge by Emanuel Maciel that was downgraded from a red card to yellow card in a post-match VAR review. Bradley suffered a Grade 2 MCL strain and is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks.
The good news for Vanney and the Reds (5-1-3), whose team has nine points and leads the three-way competition for a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League next season, is that Ayo Akinola had a 30-minute runout after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury.
Vancouver (2-6-0) failed to score in either of its defeats at Toronto, losing 3-0 and 1-0, and has not scored a goal in 379 minutes following a 2-0 defeat at Montreal on Aug. 25. It was the third straight loss for the Whitecaps, who have scored just two goals in their last six matches across all competitions.
Having played all its road matches in the three-team, six-match round robin, there is optimism in the Whitecaps camp they can turn things around and begin climbing the Western Conference standings.
“We spent a lot of time on our attacking play, how could improve in the final third that we could get more scoring opportunities. There was a lot of film individually, by groups, and also with with everybody involved,” Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos said about the team’s break. “We made sure that in training we were able to address a lot of the why’s and how can we be more aggressive, how can we create more, that was important for us in the last three days.”
Out to help Dos Santos is marquee offseason signing Lucas Cavallini, who has yet to open his scoring account for the Whitecaps. The Canada international, who opted out of MLS Is Back, has yet to score in five matches.
Toronto FC is 2-0-1 in its last three regular-season matches at Vancouver.