Toronto FC lament Campeones Cup loss as "microcosm of our season"

TORONTO – Try as they might, Toronto FC just could not quite find the extra level required in the inaugural edition of the Campeones Cup against Tigres UANL at BMO Field on Wednesday night.

The Liga MX champions lifted the trophy on the MLS champions' home turf following a 3-1 win.

“It was a microcosm of our season,” said TFC head coach Greg Vanney post-match. “Some good moments, some good looks on goal, controlled some possession. They're a very good team, they're going to have their moments as well. They picked up three goals, some things we've got to do better at for sure, but some of it is also the quality of the other players being able to make some plays.”

Toronto were on the front foot for the opening half-hour of play or so, winning a handful of corner kicks – one of which saw a Nick Hagglund header cleared off the line as the whistle blew for a foul and another that Jay Chapman caromed off the bar. 

But the clinical movement in the final third was not there.

“We got into some good areas and we chose to keep possession instead of finish attacks. It was a choice the guys made in the moment,” explained Vanney. “Jay hits the crossbar, hit the back of Tos [Ricketts], somehow. We found different ways to not finish the way we would like to on the night.”

Minutes after Chapman hit the bar, Tigres would find the precious opening goal through Jesus Dueñas, the first of a brace that saw him named MVP of the match. The first goal, in particular, was likely to be vital on a night such as this.

“There is no pressure on the ball, but we've still got to be able to manage the run,” Vanney said. “It's not like it was super disguised. We should have been able to see it and drop, bump the run, anything.”

Toronto would then lose Sebastian Giovinco before halftime, compounding their woe.

“I don't have a clear update,” Vanney said. “We'll know more tomorrow. He was a getting a little bit of tightness in his calves and decided he needed to shut it down.”

Down a goal and without their talisman, Toronto were uncertain.

Added Hagglund: “One lapse and that shakes the confidence a little bit. Come out second half a little flat-footed. That's kind of how things have gone this season.”

Two goals in quick succession – one off a half-cleared corner kick in the 64th minute that Dueñas drove into the bottom corner from range and an own-goal in the 66th minute off of Eriq Zavaleta when Tigres hit on the counter – put the game out of grasp.

“We had a very good start. We were aggressive, did a lot of things that we wanted to do,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley. “Couldn't quite get the final part of a play right to take advantage and disappointing to give up that goal. Then, as has been too often the case, we have a few minutes of madness in the second half where the game gets out of reach.”

And as they have all season, once down, Toronto looked to claw their way back. They would carve Tigres open in the 75th minute, but Chapman's goal-bound shot was blocked by his teammate Ricketts. Lucas Janson then scored Toronto's only goal from the penalty spot in the 85th minute, but it was too little, too late.

“The guys are frustrated because they wanted to win the game. At the same time, they understand the importance of what is in front of them,” said Vanney. “But we decided that if we're going to play this game, then we need to play [it] in the right way.”

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