New England extends unbeaten run to eight games with 2-0 victory over Toronto FC
TORONTO — The evening started poorly for Toronto FC when veteran defender Matt Hedges felt something in his lower leg before kickoff Saturday, the second Toronto player not to make it through the warmup in as many weeks.
And things went from bad to worse in a 2-0 loss to the high-flying New England Revolution, who extended their unbeaten run to eight games (5-0-3).
Sigurd Rosted, Hedges' normally reliable centre back partner, misplayed the ball under pressure from Bobby Wood, allowing the Revs forward to race in alone before slipping the ball through goalkeeper Sean Johnson's legs in the 19th minute for his third goal of the season
The Revs went ahead 2-0 in the 62nd minute. Johnson made a fine reflex save to deny Carles Gil, only to see DeJuan Jones hammer the rebound home as the Toronto defence was ripped apart.
"Frustrating. A slow start. A mistake to get behind," said Toronto coach Bob Bradley. "And then in too many cases, a team that was frustrated, trying to find a way to get back into the game.
"You could see the frustration on the field. Against a good team, that's hard."
Toronto (2-3-6) had lost just once in its previous nine games (2-1-6) and was looking to build on a 1-0 victory last Saturday over New York City FC. Instead it was beaten for the first time in six outings (2-1-3) at home this season.
New England (7-1-3) came into the game atop both the Eastern Conference and Supporters' Shield standings on goal difference over FC Cincinnati. New England has gone 5-0-3 since suffering its lone loss of the season, a 4-0 defeat at Los Angeles FC on March 12.
With its fifth shutout of the MLS season, New England has conceded just nine goals through 11 games.
"It's a good win, especially on the road … It was one of our better performances," said Revolution coach Bruce Arena.
Toronto was not short on shots on the night but most were wayward. TFC outshot New England 20-10 but the Revs had a 6-5 edge in shots on target.
Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi had 11 shots between them. Insigne fired seven shots, only one of which was on target, while Bernardeschi put three of four on goal.
Toronto had three free kicks from dangerous positions just outside the penalty box in the first half. Bernardeschi's effort hit the New England wall and Insigne was off target in the 35th and in first-half stoppage time.
The Italians seemed frustrated at times when the ball did not get to them at the right time or in the right place. Insigne began moving to a more central position to get the ball.
Injuries and a lack of depth have hurt Toronto, which is still struggling to find its attacking identity.
"We're still not as consistent and strong an attacking team as we need to be," said Bradley, who brought on Adama Diomande at the hour mark to help CJ Sapong up front in a bid to generate offence.
It was a seventh career meeting between veteran coaches Bradley and Arena, whose relationship stretches back some 40 years. Their head-to-head record was knotted at 2-2-2 coming into the match.
Arena, with 257 regular-season coaching wins, and Bradley, with 193, stand No. 1 and 3 in MLS ranks. The late Sigi Schmid, after whom the MLS coaching award is now named, is No. 2 at 240.
The 65-year-old Bradley and 71-year-old Arena have a combined 500 career MLS wins when you add in playoff victories, the most by a pair of coaches facing off in a match. They also have seven MLS coach of the year awards between them (four for Arena and three for Bradley).
Toronto was once again missing the injured Michael Bradley and Jonathan Osorio, two-thirds of the Toronto midfield. Bradley and Osorio have combined for 624 appearances for TFC in all competitions.
Shane O'Neill replaced Hedges at centre back but had to leave himself in the 69th minute after feeling something tighten in his leg. Kobe Franklin started at fullback for the injured Raoul Petretta, who had to leave the warmup last week against NYCFC due to injury,
Aime Mabika made his Toronto debut, replacing O'Neill.
It was a welcomed 17 Celsius at kickoff for the announced crowd of 27,438 at BMO Field after a wet week in Toronto.
Former Toronto striker Jozy Altidore came off the New England bench to cheers in the 61st minute.
Altidore, whose contract with Toronto was bought out in February 2022, ranks second in the TFC record book in goals (79) and fifth in appearances in all competitions (173). The 33-year-old Altidore had seen just 77 minutes of league action over four games this season, all off the bench before Saturday.
Proof of TFC's roster turnover was shown by the fact that Laryea was the only Toronto starter Saturday who was part of the first team when Altidore was.
New England's injured list included Colombian star winger Dylan Borrero, who is out for the season with a knee injury suffered last weekend.
Both Toronto and New England face challenging schedules ahead.
Saturday marked the first of seven games in 25 days for Toronto, which faces Montreal twice next week — in Canadian Championship play on Tuesday and league play Saturday. Four of the Revs' next six league outings are on the road.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2023.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press