TORONTO – Sometimes a season can be encapsulated by a single night.
“Great win, maybe not our best night of football, but very good mentality, took advantage of some opportunities,” said LAFC coach Bob Bradley. “I would have liked a clean sheet, but still, proud of the guys.
“Toronto, they're champions,” he explained. “You have to come here, play a team that has pride and doesn't want to let things get away. In that respect, big night and an important three points.”
In the other dressing room, the loss was all too familiar.
“For me, it’s the same old story,” said Michael Bradley. “Game starts, we do a lot of things pretty well, we’re not quite good enough and sharp enough to take advantage going forward. We can’t get the lead, give up a bad, soft, unfortunate – choose your word – goal, and things compound themselves from there. You run out of things to say.”
TFC were on the front foot, nearly taking the lead through a spectacular bicycle kick – from the top of the penalty box no less – courtesy of Sebastian Giovinco, only to concede on a twice-deflected strike credited to Carlos Vela shortly thereafter.
“If you give up four goals, you’re going to have a hard time winning games,” said Reds coach Greg Vanney. “The first goal for me was a little unfortunate, until then I thought we had pretty good control of things: created chances and dictated a fair amount of the game.
“I don’t think that was their concern, having a ton of possession and controlling the game,” he continued. “As teams are playing us right now, they protect themselves by waiting us out; waiting for a mistake. The first goal was misfortune but the three after are plays we have to be able to deal with, there are no two ways about it.”
That second concession was a “huge killer,” said Jozy Altidore.
“A little bit of a miscue, but credit to Rossi. It was a fantastic finish,” added the TFC striker. “When you play against quality, you can't sleep for a second.”
Altidore would spark some life into his side, scoring a brace in the 74th minute and deep into stoppage-time to set up a potentially nervous ending for the visitors. But Vela found his second a minute later, from an impossible angle to crush any hopes of a comeback.
A member of TFC last season, LAFC's Steven Beitashour knows well the threat they possess.
“Toronto is very capable of scoring multiple goals; world-class players on their team,” said Beitashour. “For our guys to hold on tight, secure the victory with that final goal, really meant a lot.”
Much though the action took center stage, in the preamble, the first head-to-head encounter between father (coach) and son (player) was the main storyline.
“Rightfully so,” said Beitashour. “The pedigree of Bob, throughout his career; Michael is a fantastic player. World-class player and coach. The storyline should be about them.”
As the final whistle blew, both offered their congratulations and commisserations to teammates and opponents before finally sharing a brief embrace before leaving the field and going their separate ways. Their duties not yet done.
“I'm proud of him,” said Bob when asked about Michael's performance, comparing TFC’s captain to iconic FC Barcelona No. 6 Sergio Busquets and noting that his son’s abilities are well-recognized north of the border.
“In Canada you have [reached a full understanding]. That part, as a family, we appreciate.”