Takeaways from Toronto FC defeat

TOR takeaways

As Allan Cruz stood inside the 18-yard box awaiting his penalty attempt, he turned around and saw Maikel van der Werff urging the Costa Rican to stay calm.

Deep into stoppage time, Cruz won a penalty and waited for his opportunity to snap FC Cincinnati’s scoreless streak, equalize the match and draw the best club in MLS.

The moment never came.

After a lengthy video review the penalty decision was overturned, and with that, FCC’s chance at a point dissipated.

Here are the takeaways from the 1-0 loss to Toronto FC on Sunday night at Nippert Stadium:

Upon further review

That moment – or lack thereof – epitomizes FC Cincinnati’s 2020 regular season.

The club has routinely put itself into situations that can lead to on-field change, whether it’s creating goal-scoring opportunities or switching formations to nullify opponents. But when there are crucial moments in a match, they have almost always gone against the Orange and Blue.

Often times that’s because of an individual’s defensive mistake or a poor shot in the final third. Against Toronto, the occasion was Cruz winning a late penalty, only to be denied the chance to take the shot.

In the second minute of stoppage time, Cruz was clearly pushed from behind by Toronto’s Omar Gonzalez as Haris Medunjanin’s cross swirled into the area. Match official Robert Sibiga whistled for the foul initially, but then overturned his decision after watching the replay.

“I think it was a penalty,” head coach Jaap Stam said. “You know, the only strange thing that I find is that the fourth official is turning here, because he's very close by so he sees it well. So, now he's standing almost on top of it. He sees it, and he gives a penalty. Then afterwards, you get a recall that it's not a penalty. Well, first off, something happened over there, and then you can't say anything about that. So, it's a bit strange, to be honest, and the other referees, in general, are a bit doubtful. But now you don't want to complain about that.

“We need to score ourselves and we need to create opportunities. That's the main thing. The second half, we did a lot better in terms of being more aggressive, going forward on the ball, being more dominant, which is good, but it's a shame we don't reward ourselves with the goal.”

We’ll never know if the midfielder would’ve scored, but because he didn’t, Cincinnati haven’t scored in 455 minutes – since Medunjanin scored an Olimpico at New York Red Bulls.

Stam: “Nobody’s going to give it to us.”

There were opportunities earlier in the match for Cincinnati to equalize after Patrick Mullens’ 29th-minute goal.

Center backs Maikel van der Werff and Nick Hagglund both nearly scored off set pieces, but their headers dragged wide of the goal frame, and Saad Abdul-Salaam had a first-half strike force TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg to make a save.

“We should’ve had more out of this game, unfortunately,” Stam said. “That’s the position we are in now. We need to make our own luck. We need to work hard for it. Nobody’s going to give it to us. We have seen that in the past. In this game as well. We need to keep working for these points.”

Andrew Gutman agreed that sentiment saying the team’s performances have been positive, but not in the critical moments of the match.

“We played well for most of the game, but you have to play for 90 minutes to get results in this league,” Gutman said. “There were moments when we didn’t play so well and that hurt us in the end of the game. The team is making progress but it’s not good enough for us and we have to do better, we have to put together a complete 90 minutes. You can see when we do well and we’re taking control of the game, we are a very good team. It’s just consistency, and right now it’s not good for anyone in the team. We need results and we got to figure something out here really quick.”

FCC lineup changes reiterate “crazy” season

Ahead of kickoff, Stam made four changes to his starting lineup – three from injuries and one for new signing Ávaro Barreal.

Just as Nick Hagglund was cleared to play after contracting the coronavirus, captain Kendall Waston was a late scratch for an injury during Friday’s training session.

The changes have altered all the position groups, and for the first time in a match, FCC were forced to sub a goalkeeper. In the 81st minute, Spencer Richey replaced Przemysław Tytoń after the Polish goalkeeper sustained an injury.

“This season, the way it is set up is crazy,” Gutman said. “It’s not only our team, you see across the league guys are going down, just with the amount of games in such a short amount of time. You just got to get recovered as quick as you can, and you got to be doing everything and then some to stay healthy.

“This season is unlike any other season that anyone will probably play ever again. You just got to push through it as much as you can, and even if you get injured, the next guy has to be ready to step up. It’s a huge team effort this year. You’ve seen it with us, and you’ve seen it with every team across the league.”

What comes next

FC Cincinnati have a quick turnaround following the defeat and will host the Columbus Crew SC on Wednesday night at Nippert Stadium.

The occasion will be the fourth #HellisReal Derby of 2020 and offers the Orange and Blue the opportunity to beat Columbus in the final meeting between the clubs at Nippert Stadium.

Cincinnati’s last win against its northern rival came in their first meeting at Nippert in June 2017.

Six matches remain in the 2020 MLS regular season.