TORONTO – There was a common sentiment shared amongst the dejected Toronto FC players following Saturday night's penalty shootout MLS Cup loss to the Seattle Sounders at BMO Field, a defeat that sees their magical Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoff run come to an unsatisfying end.
That commonality? Sometimes it's not your night.
“It's a cruel game sometimes,” said defender Drew Moor. “The game of soccer doesn't owe you anything. We should be proud of the way we played, we were the better team for the majority of the match, had the better chances... Your whole season comes down to penalties. A coin flip. That's why it may hurt a little bit more.”
Added midfielder Jonathan Osorio: “It wasn't meant to be. There are some days where a team can dominate all they want, but the ball just won't go in the net. We wanted to end it before penalties. Honestly, it was bad luck today. It wasn't meant to be for us this year.”
While it is true that TFC did have the lion's share of play – the Sounders were unable to place a single shot on target through the 120 minutes of play – surely there was more to it than mere fate.
“The margins are so small. On nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley. "We talked about that before the game: be fearless, go after things. We did that. We were strong and brave; went after the game from the first minute right up until the 120th minute. On a different night, you get a goal. If you get the first one, you probably get a few more. But that's the game; that's how it goes.”
One criticism following the match was that TFC were too conservative. Seattle appeared willing, possibly even eager, to play for penalties on the road, but perhaps Toronto were not adventurous enough themselves, willing to risk all in order to seize the reward.
One aspect that will likely be scrutinized is Toronto's substitution patterns on the night.
And then, despite having been a not-so-secret-weapon all playoffs long, Tosaint Ricketts was not brought on until the 103rd minute, and that was only when Sebastian Giovinco was forced off with an apparent injury.
Ricketts' injection of pace no doubt changed the character of the match, troubling the tiring Seattle defenders with his lightning movement. Four minutes after coming on he sent a look inches wide. With more time, could more have been achieved?
Bradley was adamant that Toronto's approach to the match was not timid.
”We went after the game," reiterated Bradley. "Tosaint, Benoit, Will; these guys have been a huge part of what we've been about the entire year. All three came on and helped us. I don't think there was any part about what we did tonight that was conservative."