TFC, who sit atop both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings, took the lead through Benoit Cheyrou's 35th-minute strike. But a pair of second-half goals gave the USL side the lead ahead of next week's second leg in Toronto.
“Congratulations to Ottawa, they played hard,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney. “The second half, they came out with a different level of intensity, had a real purpose to get forward and try to get a goal. They stuck with it and got two.”
“It makes for an interesting return leg back in Toronto,” added Vanney. “It's a wake-up call. We need to play at our best and not take things for granted. We're going to have to perform in order to get through.”
That both of Ottawa's goal came from broken, scrambled plays was all the more galling.
“We were sloppy in general,” admitted Vanney, who called for his side to be “better, cleaner” in the second leg. “[You] make a couple mistakes, you don't clear, you don't connect the pass to get out of pressure, you invite a second-wave attack, and in both circumstances they led to real problems for us.”
In the 2016 edition of the competition, it was Vancouver who felt the sting of defeat in the first leg in Ottawa. The Whitecaps would overcome that margin in the second leg.
For TFC to do the same, more will be required.
“We have to be better next week on Wednesday night at our place,” said Drew Moor, who replaced Justin Morrow at halftime and ended the match wearing the captain’s armband. “We were a little casual on the ball, gave it away too many times, and in bad spots. [We] did a good job to take the lead, but weren't good enough to get a better result.”
Moor denied that the setback would have any impact on their plans, however.
“I don't think it changes anything,” he said. “We tried to win today, and we'll do everything we can to advance next week.”
Given the raft of lineup changes Vanney made and the busy schedule still ahead, will TFC be forced to reconsider the strategy of resting their stars?
“We'll see,” said Vanney. “We have a game with Columbus [Crew SC on Friday], a tough Eastern Conference rival. Hopefully we get out of that match in good shape. All things are considered. All players who will be healthy will be available. We'll choose the team we fell will turn around the result and get us through.”