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Recap: Toronto FC eliminated from playoff contention following heavy defeat to Orlando

A thumping 4-0 loss at Exploria Stadium means Toronto FC will not play in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the second straight year.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC has officially been eliminated from 2022 MLS Cup Playoff contention following a woeful 4-0 defeat to Orlando City SC at Exploria Field.

Bob Bradley’s men have not only conceded four goals in their last three MLS games, but they also suffered their biggest defeat of the season on the night where a loss would have ended the Reds’ postseason aspirations.

In spite of Lorenzo Insigne’s return to the starting XI, the lack of urgency for the majority of the game once again proved costly for TFC.

Failure to assert themselves early saw Toronto concede inside the first 10 minutes, with Facundo Torres firing home from just outside of the box. Quentin Westberg was left flat-footed and helpless as he continues to wait for his first MLS clean sheet of the season.

Orlando were not playing stellar football, but TFC failed to match their energy and drive on the pitch, which ultimately led to the hosts grabbing a second in the 22nd minute. An emphatic finish from Ercan Kara doubled the lead for the Lions, much to the dismay of Westberg and his defenders.

At the half hour mark, Toronto had yet to register a shot on target. Their best chance of the first 45 came in the 35th minute following some neat link up play between Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, but the No. 10’s curler drifted wide of Pedro Gallese’s goal. Given the space he had, the Italian international should have at least hit the target.

Down two at the break, a wake up call was desperately needed. The expectation would have been for TFC to come out of halftime ready to battle and spark a fightback. Yet, it only took two minutes into the second 45 for things to go from bad to worse.

An unfortunate own goal from Lukas MacNaughton made it 3-0 to Orlando. With TFC heads firmly down, that moment was undoubtedly the nail in the coffin on the night.

It was not until the 60th minute where Toronto FC finally registered an effort on target. Substitute Jesús Jiménez’s shot from distance did not lack power, but it was hit straight at Gallese, who parried the ball away with ease.

Goal scoring opportunities remained scarce for the visiting Reds, who were very much on the backfoot for the majority of the second half. In the 84th minute, Calgary-born forward Tesho Akindele bagged Orlando’s fourth of the game, coolly slotting the ball past Westberg from close range.

One win in seven is arguably all the evidence needed to highlight that Toronto FC is due for some change during the 2022-23 offseason.

Following the game, Bob Bradley reiterated that his side are still very much in a rebuilding phase.

“I’ve spoken about the work to get this thing to where we want it to be, where it can be, where it will be. The building of a team doesn’t start at the beginning and then end at some point in the season or after the season, it keeps going.”

An emotional Michael Bradley also reflected on the disappointing end to a rollercoaster ride of a season.

“Yeah, it’s been disappointing, really disappointing. Obviously it’s been a hard year. Obviously a lot of different things to deal with in so many ways,” said TFC’s captain.

“For large parts of the year, even when things weren’t perfect and even when things were stacked against us a little bit, we found good ways to keep going and even on some hard days we were able to really stick together and even when the football wasn’t perfect, still find ways to stay in it, take some points and still feel like we were moving ourselves forward in a good direction, even if, again, we weren’t always rewarding ourselves in every way that we should have.”

Toronto FC return to action on Friday, September 30th when they welcome Inter Miami CF to BMO Field for the Reds’ final home game of 2022.