Toronto FC lose to Dinamo Zagreb, miss chance to advance to quarterfinals

FRISCO, Texas — With three points out of a possible six to start off the 2019 Generation adidas Cup, Toronto FC fell to Dynamo Zagreb in its final match, losing 1-0 and finishing third in Group B.

Toronto came into the day at the top of the group, with a win ensuring their place in the quarterfinals of the top GA cup division.

The first half seemed to be a feeling out phase for both sides, as each team conceded possessions for moments, being more in lower blocks. Toronto used Zagreb’s low block to establish possession and attempt to create down the wings. 

However, early in the second half, Zagreb hit. After cutting in, a shot from winger Nikola Pavlovic slotted past TFC keeper Eleias Himeras for the match’s only goal in the 27th minute. Jacen Russell-Rowe, who had three goals in the tournament entering the day, forced the Dinamo 'keeper to make a spectacular save to keep the match level late in the second half.

“It’s one of those difficult matches, where you think the goal is coming and it becomes a psychological battle the more the time ticks off the clock,” TFC coach Gianni Cimini told “We thought we were in control of the majority of the game and when we conceded against the run of play, I think it was a psychological aspect from the boys under pressure to get the goal back with a limited amount of time. It was a great learning experience that you can’t put your head down from it. You just got to be better the next game.”

TFC had a two-goal lead on the LA Galaxy Sunday but lost it and eventually lost in a penalty-kick shootout that handed the Galaxy an extra point. That extra point would have pushed them to qualify for the next round instead of the Galaxy, something Cimini said was very disappointing. 

“I thought generally, we were one of the top teams in the group but again, it’s highlights the message even more, that at the critical moments, we gotta be stronger mentally,” Cimini said. “The level of competition highlights that for our boys, that the game has a big mental aspect to it and when you shut down for even a second, you’re going to be punished. The message for us is very clear; you have to be consistent for the duration of the match.”

The Reds will are set to play three matches at GA Cup, where they will look to learn some more lessons.

“There’s talent in this group,” Cimini said. “We can feel confident with our club going forward. Hopefully, we’ll sign a few more professional players for our first team and it’s learning from those little moments and setbacks.”