WASHINGTON — Another disastrous result left Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley without words on Saturday.
His club had just suffered its worst defeat of the season, a 7-1 drubbing at the hands of D.C. United that left TFC (1-8-2) at the bottom of the Major League Soccer standings.
Bradley called it one of his worst days with the team.
"After 90 minutes like that, there's nothing to say," said the 33-year-old midfielder. "When you play like that, when you lose like that, words mean nothing afterwards. Over the next few days and the next few weeks, we'll have our chance to show a real reaction. But there's nothing to say that has any value after a game like that."
The loss was Toronto's sixth in a row. The club has not won since its fourth game of the season, a 2-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC back on May 12.
“It’s nobody’s fault but ourselves, the players," Bradley said. "People want to look around and point fingers and say it’s (head coach Chris Armas') fault, he hasn’t done a good enough job. (Expletive.) The players, we have to look at ourselves and find more.”
Last season, TFC conceded just 26 goals and finished second in the Supporters' Shield race with a 13-5-5 record. This year it has given up 27 goals in 11 games.
Saturday marked the first time in United's 26-year history that it scored seven goals in a game and the 10th time in MLS that a team scored seven goals in a game.
D.C. outshot Toronto 21-6. TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono stopped three of nine on-target shots and United's Bill Hamid recorded two saves.
Toronto's trouble began in just the second minute of the game when a cross from D.C.'s Andy Najar skipped across the penalty area in front of several defenders and Kevin Paredes popped a shot into the top-left corner of the net. The 18-year-old American's first-ever MLS goal gave United an early 1-0 lead.
“We’re so unstable," Bradley said. "Good teams, when you’re in a flow and playing well, there’s confidence and there’s an ease and a stability in the team that helps you navigate all different parts of the game. And right now we don’t have that. At all.”
It seemed TFC would recover when Ayo Akinola responded with a chance of his own in the fourth minute, narrowly missing United's net with a left-footed shot.
But in the ninth minute, Junior Moreno sprung Nigel Robertha for a breakaway and the Dutch-born player put a calm, low shot past Bono's outstretched leg for his second goal of the season.
It briefly appeared the visitors got a goal back in the 14th minute when Richie Laryea danced around Brendan Hines-Ike and got a shot in past Hamid. Officials quickly called the goal offside.
Another defensive stumble saw the ball end up in the back of Toronto's net once again in the 21st minute. The ball pinged around the penalty area before bouncing off Ralph Priso-Mbongue and in past Bono, who was diving in the opposite direction.
Akinola gave his side a brief glimmer of hope before the half. D.C. gave the ball away to Bradley and the veteran Toronto midfielder sent it up to Akinola, who blasted a left-footed shot past Hamid to make it 3-1.
Armas changed tactics heading into the second half, switching to a 4-2-3-1 formation. He also tried to rally his group in the locker room during the break in play.
"Most importantly, it was about just trying to ramp things up again," he said. "We knew it would be a day about second balls and competing and coming out first on that end. It was as much about that as the little tactical details."
United regained its three-goal lead in the 71st, however, when Paul Arriola stepped around defender Chris Mavinga inside the penalty area and rocketed a shot in over an outstretched Bono for his second goal of the season.
Toronto was forced to finish the game down a man after defender Eriq Zavaleta received his second yellow of the game in the 78th minute for hauling down Arriola on a run outside the penalty area.
Three of D.C.'s goals came in the final nine minutes of the game, all from second-half substitutes.
Ola Kamara came off the bench for Robertha in the 76th minute and wasted little time making an impact on the game. He took a long ball, got ahead of two Toronto defenders and blasted a shot in for his fifth goal of the season at the 81st minute mark.
Then, in the 85th, Yamil Asad headed in a rocket from the top of the six-yard box. The Argentine midfielder replaced Najar in the 76th minute.
Griffin Yow sealed the score at 7-1 in the 90th minute, tucking a shot into the Toronto net from the short side of the box. The 18-year-old came off the bench in the 69th minute for Julian Gressel.
The lopsided defeat was a real blow to an already battered TFC side, Armas said.
“You lose by that margin, it’s demoralizing,” the coach said. “These guys have been through a lot and, you know, it’s hard to stay in it.”
Still, Armas believes that with 23 games to go, the season is still salvageable -- and that he’s the right person to lead the team going forward.
“I believe that this group needs me and I need them. And together we’re going to get out of this," he said. "That’s the truth.”
Bradley agreed, saying he “1,000 per cent” believes Armas is the right person to be coaching the team.
Creating change on the field will require a “real shift” though, Armas said.
“Something has to give,” he said. “So just looking for solutions. Is it formation? Is it a couple of starters? Is it my fault? You can start looking every which way, but something has to give. Something has to give.”
Toronto won't have long to turn things around. The club will be on the road again Wednesday when it faces the Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution. D.C. United won't play again until July 17 when it visits the Philadelphia Union.
NOTES: Two of Toronto's designated players returned to the lineup. Yeferson Soteldo (international duty) replaced Jacob Shaffelburg in the 46th minute and Alejandro Pozuelo (thigh) came on for Priso-Mbongue in the 51st. ... Saturday marked the first time in MLS history that there were seven different goal scorers for one team in a single game.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 3, 2021.
The Canadian Press