Tonight must have felt like a living hell for Toronto FC. It started from the minute they stepped on the pitch and were greeted by the sweltering heat of Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. The temperature was 34 degrees celsius, but on field level, it likely felt even worse. Toronto FC would only get even more hot and bothered from there in a 3-2 loss to Orlando City SC.
Cyle Larin issued the first cut in Toronto FC's death by a thousand tonight when he slid Orlando City in front just five minutes into the match. It was another slow start for Toronto FC, a trend that they desperately need to avoid going forward.
In fact, early on it looked like Toronto FC really didn't deserve anything from this match, for the majority of the opening half they played like zombies. They only woke up after the match was stopped for a water break. What came afterwards, however, really did make it feel like Toronto FC were hard done by the result.
Early in the second half, Toronto created an equaliser off a brilliant bit of skill from Jonathan Osorio, and a calm finish from Jordan Hamilton. It was Hamilton's first Major League Soccer goal, and a demonstration of why Greg Vanney has given him a run of starts lately between the Canadian Championship and league play.
Osorio, for his part, was not only the architect of this goal but also Toronto FC's second as well. The Canadian played an excellent match in the midfield, providing a creative spark for a team that looked out of ideas at many times during the match.
After the goal, Toronto FC looked to be well on their way to earning a crucial road point until fate struck again. Goalkeeper Clint Irwin was injured taking a goalkick and had to be replaced by rookie Alex Bono. Reports suggest that Irwin has suffered a quad injury, the severity of which is not yet known. The injury was especially unfortunate since Irwin had been Toronto FC's man of the match, making several incredible saves, keeping the match close.
Hamilton looked to have again given Toronto FC a good scoring chance when he was brought down in the box by ex-Toronto FC keeper Joe Bendik, but the referee waved play on. Bendik got his hands all over Hamilton, who was trying to finish a loose ball in the box. Everything in the game changed after that.
Bono, unfortunately, looked the part of a rookie who had never before played an MLS minute. Shortly after coming onto the field he was caught out of his net, giving Orlando City's Adrian Winter an easy goal. It was a worrying sign for Toronto FC, as they may have to deal with life without Irwin for a little while going forward.
Toronto FC, to their credit, didn't give up. They once again tied up the game, this time courtesy of Giovinco finding Justin Morrow at the back post. Surely this time Toronto FC had at least earned a draw?
Enter eight minutes of stoppage time, awarded as a result of the treatment Irwin needed after going down to injury. In the dying minutes of the match, Orlando's Julio Baptista was brought down in the box by Drew Moor. It was a penalty that never should have been called, but ultimately allowed Kaka to deliver the nail in Toronto FC's coffin.
In the aftermath of the controversial call, Justin Williams was given a red card for arguing with the referee. When the final whistle went, Toronto FC players would swarm the referee, only to we waved off of the pitch by Greg Vanney. Toronto FC's coach quite rightly didn't want to make an already horrible situation so much worse.
This has to be frustrating for Toronto FC, who were already arguably cost points earlier in the season on the road as a result of refereeing decisions. This probably wasn't even the worst call that Toronto FC has dealt with this season, but given the context, it will probably be the most difficult to swallow.
After the loss, their first against Orlando City SC, Toronto FC now sits 7th in the Eastern Conference and out of a playoff spot. If they had tied the match they would still be in fifth place.
Unfortunately, the only thing Toronto can do now is move on. They have a crucial game, the biggest of the season to date, on Wednesday against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Voyageurs Cup final. All they can do now is hope to take up from this nightmare before the opening whistle blows midweek.