Behind enemy lines, Toronto FC suffered their fifth defeat in seven league matches, falling 1-0 to Wilfried Nancy’s CF Montreal.
Having notched just 19 points from 21 MLS games, TFC’s next few fixtures will be of utmost importance with regards to a playoff berth.
Bob Bradley made four changes to the side that started in the midweek defeat to the Chicago Fire, as Alex Bono, Lukas MacNaughton, Domenico Criscito, and Ayo Akinola were brought in for Quentin Westberg, Chris Mavinga, Jonathan Osorio, and Jayden Nelson.
Osorio’s absence from the matchday squad was due to concussion protocol, while Nelson served a one-match suspension as a result of yellow card accumulation.
From the off, boos rang out from the home supporters every time a TFC player was on the ball. A proper away day in Montreal indeed.
In what felt like a nervy start for the Reds, Montreal had a golden opportunity to take the lead after five minutes. Cue a world-class save from Alex Bono.
The shot stopper parried Kei Kamara’s shot from point-blank range onto the crossbar, much to the relief of his teammates.
How??? @Alex25Bono | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/M60jldGmvS— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) July 16, 2022
Midway through the first half, Kaye registered TFC’s first shot on target, forcing a one-handed save from fellow Canada international James Pantemis. The midfielder drove into the area from the edge of the box and tried his luck from a relatively tight position. In the end, the 25-year-old goalkeeper ensured he had his angles covered.
Bono then stole headlines for the rest of the first half, denying several more Montreal attempts at goal, including an ambitious long-range hit from Samuel Piette.
While the hosts continued to threaten, TFC’s attacking opportunities were scarce, highlighting their ongoing lack of urgency in the final third. Moreover, the absence of Osorio in the middle of the park was evident.
In spite of Montreal’s dominance, TFC would have been happier team at halftime given the scoreline. The hosts notched 12 shots during the first 45, eight more than the visiting Reds. Ultimately, it was still anyone’s game heading into the second half.
Honduras international Romell Quioto provided the sell out crowd at Stade Saputo with the first chance of the second 45 as he fired an effort on the volley just over the crossbar. Toronto thus remained on the back foot as Montreal continued to pile on the pressure.
At the hour mark, TFC had yet to register a second in the second half. Coupled with 37% possession, it was obvious to see which side was hungrier for that elusive opening goal.
In the 65th minute, Bono was once again called into action, arguably pulling off the save of the evening. Alistair Johnston’s cross found an unmarked Quioto, whose header was remarkably pushed onto the bar by Bono’s right hand.
All over it @Alex25Bono | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/EBWrfGSCcC— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) July 17, 2022
Yet four minutes later, Quito would finally break the deadlock. In a similar sequence to the Honduran’s chance moments before, Johnston curled a delicious ball into the box, which Quioto made sure he buried this time. After review, the strike was eventually deemed a MacNaughton own goal.
Tensions began to flare during the latter stages of the game, which culminated in Kamal Miller receiving a second bookable offence for a foul on Bono. With the man advantage, the floodgates were open for TFC to push for a leveller with less than 10 minutes left in normal time.
A glorious opportunity for Toronto came in the 89th minute, as Shane O’Neill’s towering header via a Criscito corner was saved by Pantemis in acrobatic fashion.
That chance marked the end of the Reds’ brief pursuit of an equalizer, with Montreal ensuring they fended off some late TFC pressure to seal victory in front of their faithful fans.
Bob Bradley spoke post-game on how his side must remain tough-minded amid a poor run of form.
“We are going to get it to where we want. It’s hard work right now,” affirmed TFC’s head coach.
“We’ll be excited to get a lift when some of these other guys get here, get on the field, and then see if we can get ourselves on a little bit of a run.”
Bono also expressed similar sentiments as he urged his teammates to live and learn.
“Even on a tough night like this, it’s important for us to learn from what didn’t happen for us, to take a few of the positives and try and keep it going. We have to take it one game at a time, that’s the most important thing.”
Following the defeat, TFC will now have gone a whole year without an away win in MLS. The Reds’ last road victory in the league came on July 24th, 2021 against the Chicago Fire. Their next away day in MLS is on July 30th when the Reds visits Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Revolution.
Up next, Toronto FC plays host to Charlotte FC at BMO Field on Saturday, July 23rd, where Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi are both set to make their highly anticipated debuts for the club.