Atlanta came into the game on a two game win streak, following a horrible start to their season. On the other hand, Toronto came into the game with only three wins all season, and are fighting to get out of last place in the league.
Head coach Javier Perez put forth a heavily rotated lineup, which included Alejandro Pozuelo and Yeferson Soteldo on the bench, as well as five other changes. Ralph Priso and Jozy Altidore were also ruled out due to long-term injuries, according to the TSN broadcast crew.
Quentin Westberg was also given the start over Alex Bono, and Chris Mavinga was ruled out due to personal reasons.
The game got underway with Atlanta kicking off, and it was not long after that they took the lead. In the 20th minute, Barco created the right amount of space after Eriq Zavaleta allowed him to turn, and the Argentine attacker found the back of the net following a deflection.
The Reds can’t seem to stop conceding early... pic.twitter.com/8TEueL21pS— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) August 18, 2021
The goal meant Toronto FC have now gone 16 games in a row this season without recording a clean sheet — a new club record for consecutive matches without conceding a goal in one season.
For the first quarter of the game, TFC were barely hanging on and seemed content to barely survive. This changed halfway through the first half, as they slowly grew into the game.
Jacob Shaffelburg was a bright spot on the wing, and was the only attacking outlet for the reds in the later stages of the first half. However, the team had nothing to show for it at the half and Toronto found themselves losing heading into the break, again.
In the 53rd minute, Perez made three changes, bringing in Soteldo, Pozuelo, and Kemar Lawrence, for Shaffelburg, Jonathan Osorio, and Zavaleta. This change saw fullback Justin Morrow moving into the center back spot, with Lawrence playing his usual left-back position.
The substitutions may have been made earlier than Perez originally hoped for, but they were definitely necessary if he wanted to pick up any points on the night.
In the 58th minute, Mullins almost found the back of the net with a great header that just went over the crossbar. The ball was put into a dangerous area by Soteldo, and his cross almost resulted in the first goal of the game for Toronto.
Shortly after, in the 60th minute, Pozuelo missed a pretty clear cut chance by his standards, putting his shot just wide from at the top of the box. The DP definitely should have made the game 1-1.
Soteldo won the ball back in the 63rd and a two on one counter attack quickly turned into a three on five after he failed to find a pass or take a shot. The indecisiveness of Soteldo led to a pass to Pozuelo, which came far too late in the move to create an opportunity. Prior to this, there was no better chance for TFC, and a two on one should result in a goal nine times out of ten.
Another TFC change came in the 70th minute, when Achara came in to replace Mullins up top. Achara showed glimpses of much needed energy up top, immediately making his impact felt on the match, driving down the line past his defender, but like rest of the night, with nothing to show for it.
The final Toronto substitution came in the 77th, which saw Mark Delgado replace Noble Okello. The young midfielder had a very good game, and was one of the only positives that came from this rather lacklustre performance.
The game finished 1-0 in favour of the home side, and Toronto FC lost their 11th game of the season.
The changes in the second half definitely made a difference, and the creativity that was lacking in the first half was definitely more noticeable after Soteldo and Pozuelo came into the game. There were positives that can be gathered from the last few outings, but the losses keep on adding up. Regardless of how the team played, what matters is the fact that no goals were scored, and the three points were dropped.
There are lots of decisions ahead for the braintrust of Toronto FC, regarding everything from the designated player selections and the other personnel on the field, to the general manager and the head coach. Although the game is full of opinions, there is one objective fact that is quite telling; Toronto currently sits dead last in the league.
With 14 matches remaining, the regular season is pretty much over, in terms of a success standpoint, and although winning games is extremely important, focusing on the development of a rebuilding plan that can be implemented before next season is even more important. The club cannot sustain another season like this, and the months leading up to next year should be used very wisely to ensure that the club is in the best position to achieve success.