TORONTO FC (2) – D.C. UNITED (2) POST MATCH SUMMARY
TFC – Ayo Akinola 12’ (Alejandro Pozuelo)
TFC – Ayo Akinola 44’ (Alejandro Pozuelo)
DCU – Federico Higuain 84’ (Felipe)
DCU – Frederic Brillant 90’+1 (Steven Birnbaum, Felipe)
DCU – Junior Moreno 18’ (caution)
DCU – Junior Moreno 45’+6 (second caution – Ejection)
DCU – Felipe 71’ (caution)
DCU – Russell Canouse 82’ (caution)
MLS IS BACK TOURNAMENT STANDINGS
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- Toronto FC extended its club-record unbeaten run in MLS regular season matches to 13 (5 wins and 8 ties) – courtesy of Opta
- Ayo Akinola recorded the first two-goal match of his career/first brace with Toronto FC
TORONTO FC – Quentin Westberg; Auro Jr., Omar Gonzalez (Eriq Zavaleta 64’), Chris Mavinga (Lauren Ciman 64’), Justin Morrow (Richie Laryea HT’); Michael Bradley (C), Mark Delgado, Alejandro Pozuelo (Nick DeLeon 77’); Pablo Piatti (Erickson Gallardo 73’), Tsubasa Endoh, Ayo Akinola
Substitutes Not Used: Alex Bono, Griffin Dorsey, Liam Fraser, Noble Okello, Jacob Shaffelburg, Patrick Mullins, Jayden Nelson
D.C. UNITED – Bill Hamid; Frederic Brillant, Steven Birnbaum (C), Joseph Mora (Chris Odoi-Atesem 69’); Russell Canouse, Junior Moreno, Ulises Segura (Federico Higuain 80’), Edison Flores (Yamil Asad 57’), Felipe, Julian Gressel (Kevin Paredes 58’); Ola Kamara (Oniel Fisher HT’)
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Seitz, Earl Edwards Jr., Griffin Yow, Donovan Pines, Mohammed Abu, Moses Nyeman, Erik Sorga
GREG VANNEY – HEAD COACH, TORONTO FC
Can you talk about the late collapse? What happened?
I think a couple of things. On a day like that, today, going into it if you can get a lead like we had, our objective would be to not make changes across the backline, but more to keep fresh bodies ahead of the ball. But at halftime Justin had some Achilles tendinitis issues. He’s pretty sore. And then 10 minutes into the second half, Omar’s cramping up. He can’t take another step. Right before the water break Chris is cramping up. This is the first game in extreme temperatures and the question becomes how much do you really push guys in the first game of the tournament, and your first game in months, and so we went with the changes. I thought that really disrupted our ability to start attacks and keep possession of the ball and also, we struggled in some of the transition defending. We committed too many fouls, things like that. I felt like at that point we started to lose a bit of the momentum and a bit of the possession that you want when you’re playing against a team that’s down a man. The second part of that is we needed to continue to try to attack and look for the third goal. And not just pass the ball around. But really look for our moments to try to put them on their heels and force them to have to defend their goal, and not just be in relatively comfortable defensive positions. I think a part of this is just us learning as a group. Being more diligent managing the temperature a little bit better. Things like that. But we were in a position to win the game, we should have won the game with class. Obviously, the last goal is defending a set piece. We knew if we gave them anything in our half of the field, they’re just going to dump it into the box and look for first and second balls. Birnbaum, both centre backs they have, are both good in the air. And that was it. For me that was it. We’re a mature team that should close things out. But it looked like some guys weren’t really in sync when they came in … Some poor play in terms of starting attacks and some poor play in defending.
What was the post-game scuffle about?
I think there’s opinion and emotion, specifically on DC’s side, as to our delay getting down here. This game’s been rescheduled three times. If you want to blame us, you can. For them, that’s been maybe their mantra to get through this game, and maybe give them the best chance to be in the game, to have that extra emotion. And then in the end we allow them the opportunity to pump out their chest when they come back from a two-goal deficit down a man, and to show some bravado at the end. If we win the game and close out the game the way we should, none of that probably happens. It probably goes to rest. But it was visible, and I’d heard some things were said on Twitter. I think that’s just two sides who have differing opinions on what has happened over the last week to two weeks to get this game actually played. At the end it becomes emotional as they bounce back from a two-goal deficit when they look like they were done.
What’s the message now with the Montreal game coming up on Thursday?
Not much message yet. Just caught up with guys individually. The way things are set up we have a really small locker room. We’re trying to maintain some version of social distancing. Guys are getting in and out. A lot of things are happening. We really haven’t recapped the game with the group the way we will. That’s it. Everyone knows going into this, the way things have happened over the last few days, we’re in a quick turnaround. I think that’s a good thing because you get off the field a little frustrated and the quick turnaround to get back on the field is going to be a good thing. We’ll get regrouped. We’ll get recovered. Guys need to get hydrated, all those things. We’ll see where we’re at physically and we’ll try to reset a game plan for Montreal.
Update on Jozy and Jonathan?
Jonathan is kind of targeted for the third game to get ready. These first two games are so close together. He had a bit of a quad injury from a few weeks back. He’s on schedule and/or slightly exceeding schedule to get back. I think the Montreal game, as quickly as it’s coming around is going to be a tough one, but we’ll see. And Jozy, from the time when he was able to get back in, he’s only got about 10 training sessions under his belt, four of those were individual quarantined training sessions. So, we’re just trying to make sure we’re getting him ready to play without putting him out there and putting him in harm’s way. While this event is important for us, it’s the first part of this new season and we want to make Jozy is healthy and we don’t put him at risk. Part of that is just trying to get him as much high intensity work. Some sprints and things like that, he hasn’t been able to do as much, coming back from being, basically in isolation for so long. And so, we taking a progression. All the guys are on the same progression except for Jozy and now he’s getting close. We hope to have him ready for, if not for some minutes next game, for sure by the third game is a definitive target to have him ready to be a part of it on some level.
MICHAEL BRADLEY – MIDFIELDER, TORONTO FC
The team looked so good for most of the game. What happened at the end?
Yeah, disappointing. like you said we had things completely under control for big parts of the game. But it still shows that if you drop your guard just a little bit, if the mentality starts to…if you start to take your foot off the gas a little bit and think the game is over before it actually is, then especially on days like this where it’s hot and humid and nobody’s at their best or their sharpest yet, you let a team back in the game. So, it’s disappointing, frustrating, but there’s still a lot of positives to take from the first 60-70 minutes. We’re still playing our way back into fitness.
Is letting teams back into games something the team needs to address?
I’m not sure I’d call it a tendency. It’s a little bit too easy of a conclusion to come to. I understand in the first game in San Jose this year we let them back in it with a late equalizer, and then again today. The games were separated by four and a half months, a lot of days of no training. We’re angry with ourselves, we’re frustrated. For a team that wants to be as good as we do, for a team that holds itself to the standards that we do, there’s no way you should let a team like that back into the game today. But I’m not going to sit here and draw all sorts of crazy conclusions based on the first game back in a really long time, under these circumstances.
What would you make of Pablo Piatti’s debut?
I think Pablo has shown in the last few weeks, as we’ve ramped up training and as we’ve started to get closer to real games, that he has real quality. He has a good mentality, he works, he can obviously attack and dribble by guys. Early on, we were trying to figure out the best ways we could use him. In training we’d use him on the left, and now lately, he’s found a really good way to combine with Auro, with Alejandro Pozuelo, over there on the right side. The three of them have a really good understanding. I think you saw some of that today. As he and we all get fitter and sharper, I think you’ll see more and more of that.
What do you think the team has to improve for the next game?
The teams that have the most success in these types of tournaments are the ones that can play themselves into the tournament in a good way. If you want to be one of the teams that’s playing at the end, then you grow into the tournament, you improve with every game. Nobody’s at their best in the beginning. From that perspective we’re disappointed that we didn’t take all three points today. But we all know that you have to take something from the first game, we did that, and we’ll recover mentally and physically over the next few days, talk about some things and we’ll get ready for the second game and we’ll look to be even better.
What did you see form Ayo today?
Ayo’s had a really, really good stretch. He’s fit, he’s sharp, he has such a unique package in terms of being strong, fast, he has good feet, he’s smart in how he can move off the centre backs. When he plays like that there isn’t any centre back who’s going to enjoy playing against him. I’m really happy to see him get his reward today and we’re going to continue to need him to step up for us in a big way. But from a personal standpoint I’m really happy for him because he’s worked really hard in this last stretch. He’s trained really well and for anybody, you want to see guys get their reward when the lights come on. And he got that today.
AYO AKINOLA – FORWARD, TORONTO FC
When did you first hear that you were going to get the start and what were your thoughts?
I think I heard it a day or two before the game, that I was going to be in the starting lineup. And in that moment, I just thought, how can I take my chance, my opportunity and seize the moment. Obviously, that helps when you can score goals, and thankfully I was able to score two today.
Talk about Justin Morrow’s leadership with the Black Players For Change?
I was very proud of Justin. Just the way he was able to set up the whole thing in a little over two and a half weeks, to create everything. Justin has been a great leader for us, especially to the young players, giving us guidance. Just giving us motivation. For me, seeing that and all the black players coming together before that first game. That was a proud moment for us, the black players especially. I really do appreciate everyone listening. Just being able to be heard, you know, I feel like that’s a step forward. We’re not there yet, but at least it’s a step.
You came so close in the final seconds with that looping header. Did you think it was going in?
At one point, I did. I think as soon as I hit it, I thought it was going in. Then I saw Bill (Hamid) coming for it and I thought, damn, he’s going to save it. But at one point, I thought it was going to go in, just hit off the post and go in. That was my initial reaction.
Walk us through the two goals on the second one was that a pass from Pozuelo or a shot that went askew?
I think it was kind of both (laughs). I thought he was going to chip it my way. Luckily, I kept going. I didn’t stop. Your instinct as a forward is to keep going no matter what happens. Even if it’s a rebound or a bad ball, keep going toward the goal.
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