Abysmal start costs Toronto FC a second straight loss to FC Cincinnati

CINCINNATI — Goals from Calvin Harris and Luciano Acosta helped FC Cincinnati edge Toronto FC 2-0 on Wednesday for their second win over TFC in four days.

The margin of defeat could have been higher had Cincinnati finished better. Toronto clung to the final whistle.

Toronto (3-5-2) suffered a third straight loss after a disastrous start on “Stars Wars Night” at TQL Stadium. TFC conceded a goal in the second minute and then saw midfielder Ralph Priso’s yellow card in the third minute turn red after a video review.

The victory allowed Cincinnati (4-5-1) to beat Toronto in the Eastern Conference standings. After an 0-2-0 start to the season, Cincinnati has now won four of its last eight (4-3-1) after recording just three wins in its previous 31 games.

The four wins match Cincinnati’s total last season when it went 4-22-8 to finish last in the then-27-team league. TFC finished 26th at 6-18-10.

TFC are now winless in their last 13 league matches on the road (0-9-4), having not won away in the league since a 2-1 victory in Chicago on July 24.

Toronto coach Bob Bradley faced a short roster.

And after paying for a sloppy defense in a 2-1 loss to Cincinnati over the weekend at BMO Field, Toronto was short on defense for the rematch.

Mexico centre-back Carlos Salcedo, as well as striker Ifunanyachi Achara, were unavailable – under health and safety protocols. Fellow defender Chris Mavinga, a French-born Congo international, was out with a leg injury which forced him out of Saturday’s game in the 29th minute.

Toronto was also without injured Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Noble Okello and Jacob Shaffelburg. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio also did not make the trip, with no immediate reason given.

Kadin Chung, Lukas McNaughton and Priso entered the starting XI for Salcedo, Mavinga and Osorio.

Toronto had six Canadian starters and six other local players on the bench.

Toronto’s improvised defense was torn apart in the second minute on a quick move that started with Cincinnati goaltender Roman Celentano. Three assists later, Brandon Vazquez edged McNaughton before finding Harris, who had edged Luca Petrasso with centre-back Shane O’Neill caught out of position, to get in front of goal and beat Alex Bono, stuck deep in his goal, for his first career goal in MLS.

It was the fourth goal conceded by Toronto in the first 15 minutes of the game this season. TFC have not kept a clean sheet in their last 18 league outings, since September 26, when they drew 0-0 at Colorado.

Things went from bad to worse 90 seconds later when Priso, 19, caught Obinna Nwobodo, Cincinnati’s new Designated Player making his first MLS start, with a bad tackle that saw his studs catch the midfielder Nigerian near the knee. Referee Lukasz Szpala initially released a yellow but upgraded it to red after video review, reducing Toronto to 10 men.

A distraught Priso, whose start to the season was cut short by injury, held his head in his hands as he walked off the pitch. His first start of the campaign lasted six minutes.

Priso joined Salcedo seeing red this season. Salcedo and Jayden Nelson also received one-game suspensions from the MLS Disciplinary Committee for fouls deemed worthy of a red card.

Acosta made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 57th minute after Chung was credited with overcoming Alvaro Barreal in another attack on the flank which again saw the Toronto defense in disarray as ‘Acosta found his fellow Argentinian on the edge of the box with a wonderful curling cross.

With his side playing three games in eight days, Bradley went to his bench after the goal, knocking out Jesus Jimenez and Alejandro Pozuelo. Toronto’s next game is Sunday in Vancouver.

A Barreal goal in the 69th minute was called offside. Bono nearly gave Cincinnati a goal in the 85th minute when he dropped a cross, but Brazil forward Brenner didn’t hit the target.

It was the 18th all-time league win for Cincinnati, now in its fourth season. Four of those wins have come against Toronto and two more against Montreal.

Cincinnati should have led 2-0 in the eighth minute in what was a virtual replay of the buildup to the first goal. But Acosta couldn’t recreate Harris’ finish, instead sending the ball high.

But Toronto stabilized the ship and Kosi Thompson had a chance in the 14th, driving on goal and sending the ball just wide of the post. Thompson shot wide again on the 25th.

Toronto was again cut in the 28th with Acosta’s shot hitting the side netting after a quick attack.

Jimenez nearly scored from scratch in the 35th minute, thwarting the maneuvers of two defenders to send his shot straight at the keeper. At the other end, Bono made a nice save in the 40th, going low to deny Harris from close range.

TFC appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty after Jimenez fell in the box in the 45th minute under a challenge from Junior Moreno.

Needing reinforcements, Toronto signed Themi Antonoglou, Kobe Franklin, Paul Rothrock and Steffen Yeates on short-term loans from TFC II earlier today. All four were on the bench Wednesday.

Yates, 22, and Franklin, 18, made their first-team debuts on the bench in the second half.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 4, 2022

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