Toronto FC couldn’t replicate last week’s dominating four-goal performance. Instead, the team conceded a stoppage time goal in Saturday night’s 1-0 loss to playoff hopefuls Philadelphia Union.
It was a familiar story for Ryan Nelsen’s team, which defended well and created scoring chances throughout the full 90 minutes.
But the late goal, scored on a Kleberson free kick, sent Toronto home empty handed, even with the Reds playing with a man advantage for the final 15 minutes of the game.
“The chances that we got were obviously very key ones,” Nelsen said. “We just didn’t take them, and that’s football. That’s the thing about this game, generally it comes back to haunt you.”
Toronto was awarded the advantage after Union winger Fabinho was shown a straight red card in the 77th minute. The Brazilian was judged to have stomped on the back of Alvaro Rey after the pair became tangled up going for a ball near the far touchline.
Just three minutes later, second-half substitute Robert Earnshaw had Toronto’s best scoring chance of the evening.
Firing a freekick from 22 yards, the Welshman’s strike hit the underside of the crossbar and ricocheted down, but did not cross the goal line. Philadelphia was able to clear the box with frantic defending.
“I caught it so sweet,” Earnshaw said. “If I caught it right, and if I hit the ball right, I thought it was going in. I got great contact on it. As soon as I saw it go over the wall, I was away. I was actually going to celebrate because I thought it was going to dip under the bar. Unfortunately it just hit the underside of the bar and came out instead of going in.”
Toronto had another chance at a game-winning goal in the 91st minute, when a Union corner kick turned into a counterattack opportunity.
Earnshaw and Rey sprung a two-on-one, but Rey’s shot was smothered by Zac MacMath after the Spaniard elected to cut inside and try an effort from 18 yards.
“We actually capitalized on the possession and we got some good second balls and created some situations in our favour and went through on goal,” Earnshaw said. “We should have done better, really. There were a couple of times where our final pass didn’t really make the chance clean through, but we’ve got to capitalize on that.
“We had, I thought, three times where we had the opportunity to really go through on goal and get the tap-in. We didn’t capitalize on that.”
Philadelphia found the game’s only goal with just seconds left to play. A foul from Doneil Henry set up the Union from just 25 yards out and the sparingly-used Kleberson curled the resulting free kick past goalkeeper Joe Bendik.
“It was a lovely free kick,” said Nelsen. “Set pieces, and pieces of skill like that happen in life. Our free kick hits the underside of the bar and hits the line and goes out. It could have easily gone in.”
Toronto falls to 5-16-11 on the season, including a 2-11-3 road record.
With two games left to play, Nelsen’s team is locked into a 9th place Eastern Conference finish and can only focus on next season.
“We’ve got to see a lot more character, especially if there’s games like this,” said midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “The next game in Chicago will be the same thing, same atmosphere. They’re playing for a playoff spot too.
“We have to show a little bit more character in our team and I think we’re just building to next year.”
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