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Toronto FC (2) - D.C. United (2) Post Game Summary

May 21, 2022 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Toronto FC News Release


SCORING SUMMARY

DC - Edison Flores 7' (Michael Estrada, Taxiarchis Fountas)

TOR - Ayo Akinola 36' (Jesús Jiménez)

DC - Michael Estrada 56'

TOR - Jonathan Osorio 89'

MISCONDUCT SUMMARY

TOR - Carlos Salcedo 10' (caution)

DC - Brendan Hines-Ike 16' (caution)

DC - Tony Alfaro 23' (caution)

TOR - Jesús Jiménez 45+1' (caution)

TOR - Jonathan Osorio 80' (caution)

DC - Brad Smith 84' (caution)

DC - Chris Durkin 90+3' (caution)

RECORDS (W-L-D)

Toronto FC 3-7-3 12 points

D.C. United 4-6-2 14 points

LINEUPS

TORONTO FC - Alex Bono; Kosi Thompson, Lukas MacNaughton, Carlos Salcedo, Luca Petrasso; Michael Bradley (C), Ralph Priso (Jonathan Osorio 62'), Deandre Kerr (Jordan Perruzza 85'); Jayden Nelson (Ifunanyachi Achara 78'), Ayo Akinola, Jesús Jiménez

Substitutes Not Used: Quentin Westberg, Shane O'Neill, Themi Antonoglou, Mehdi Essoussi

D.C. UNITED - Bill Hamid; Brendan Hines-Ike (Donovan Pines 59'), Steve Birnbaum (C), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Sofiane Djeffal (Drew Skundrich 46'), Chris Durkin, Brad Smith (Kimarni Smith 90'); Taxiarchis Fountas, Edison Flores (Nigel Robertha 46'), Michael Estrada (Ola Kamara 73')

Substitutes Not Used: Rafael Romo, Jackson Hopkins, Theodore Ku-DiPietro, Griffin Yow

MEDIA NOTES

Ayo Akinola made his first start for Toronto FC since July 7, 2021, when he started against New England Revolution. He also scored his first goal for Toronto FC since scoring against D.C. United on July 3, 2021.

BOB BRADLEY - HEAD COACH, TORONTO FC

Q. That is a point that's valued on a difficult day with players missing, but your team answered in the late going. What did you think of the performance?

Yeah, this team has faced a lot of adversity in this last period and there's been other moments where they have shown resilience and stuck together, but we let it get away from us. And so today, I think means a lot. It means a lot to the group that they are fighting through this and they get a little something today. They needed that. You know, football, when you're around a long time, you can go through a stretch where it seems like no matter what you do, you can't get things turned around your way.

The ability to keep guys going and engaged and working hard is a challenge. It's probably the biggest challenge that you ever face as a coach. But these guys are doing a really good job of that, and again, today, two times coming back, I think we adjusted a little bit in different moments of the game. We got some reserve on the field that made a difference. So those are all positives.

Q. Obviously I assume you didn't start Jonathan Osorio because he missed the last two games and his fitness level was on your mind. When you brought him in, did you have any particular instructions for him with the last ten or so minutes to go?

Yeah, look, Oso is a good player. When he's not on the field, some of the things that we do well on the midfield are more difficult. He understood the way the game was going. You know, when he came on, we tweaked a little bit the way we played again. He's versatile. He's smart. He and Michael have a very good understanding.

Every team that we play tries to have a guy follow Michael because they know that the way we build often starts from the defenders going through him. And Michael knows that when he's playing with Oso that if he moves a little bit and draws his marker, Oso will see the space that's been left, find himself in a spot, get the ball and in those moments, our ability to be a little bit more fluid is there. So that's important.

You know, he and I talked about how many minutes he thought he could do, so that was part of the discussions that we've had. But there's no mistaking how important he is for our team.

Q. In the past, you've talked about not wanting to rush Ayo Akinola because he has to get the confidence back. How much will a performance like this, not just the goal but the overall performance help in terms of getting his confidence back?

It's very important. It's a really well taken goal. Jesús [Jiménez] slips a really good pass and you know, Ayo does really well with it.

He's still a presence with speed and power that gives our attack a little bit of a different dimension. And you know, he was smart about the way he played today. With the weather, we had to try to find a balance. We couldn't press too much. So we tried to figure out when we could step up a little bit but how in other moments we could be in more of a mid block. At some point in the first half, we switched from 4-3-3 where Ayo was tilted a little bit right to a little bit more of, whatever you want to call it, 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 which got Ayo higher and playing a little bit on their last man and gave Jesús a little bit more freedom to come underneath. When we did that, our wide attackers, Jayden [Nelson] and Deandre [Kerr] did a good job of coming into some of those half spaces.

I thought that helped us in the first half and again if you can get Ayo into these kind of positions, if we can keep pushing him along, he brings a lot of really important qualities that I think are going to help our attack.

Q. Can we get you on the two D.C. goals?

You know, the first ball -- the first play starts with a long ball down our left side. You know, they do a good job, [Taxiarchis] Fountas is always available in the half space and then they have got runners.

And then on the ball that got cut across, we still had Lucas [MacNaughton] and Kosi [Thompson] to be able to deal with the cross and to deal with Flores, right? And so we just didn't do a good job dealing with the long ball and then it's a play that we should be able to make in front of the goal.

The second one, you know, Carlos [Salcedo] clips a ball up to Jesús. It turns over. I need to see it again but Lucas might have been able to get to his right quicker. Kosi tried to recover. Made a little bit of pressure. And then there's a moment where you know, I still liked to see Alex [Bono], we talked about it a little bit on some of the moments where now a guy is coming toward the goal and takes a touch, just making himself a little bit bigger, being a little bit more aggressive. It's similar to the goal at the end of the Vancouver game. I think there's just little things there where we can still be better. The kind of ball that gets played up to Jesús, I mean, Carlos chips one, I think we can do better finding the right passes out of back through the midfield and then it turns over, we weren't in the best of positions, so those are the two goals.

Q. Carlos Salcedo picked up a yellow card in ten minutes into the match which obviously made the task at hand for him a little bit tougher but how would you evaluate his performance this game, and I guess overall so far this season?

Look, I'm not going to go deep into -- you guys watch the games and part of the job is -- you know, I speak pretty openly but I don't go deep into ups and downs of every player after every game. I think when you watch games, that's part of what you guys should be doing.

I think Carlos has a big personality. We are still trying to get the best out of him. I want him to be a little more consistent. I want him to be a guy who organizes the people in back a little bit better. He's been in big games and he's played on big teams, so we know the qualities he has and we are still trying to get to know him better.

I take the responsibility that when players come in, it's the coach's responsibility to figure out how the players think and how to get the best out of them. So it's still early. I don't think we're there yet.

Q. Jesús was playing in a deeper role today. Was that to accommodate Ayo in the starting 11 or was that a tactical change-up on your end?

We started playing in a 4-3-3 today. And when we play in a 4-3-3, Jesús, even as a 9, we encourage him to come underneath to help us make an extra man in the midfield, and when that happens, then we also encourage our wide attacker to be more narrow and be threats.

I didn't think that early in the game, Ayo was getting involved enough. So we changed at the water break in the first half, and we played more of, I described it a few minutes ago, as a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 where Ayo played more as the 9 and then Jesús had the freedom to come underneath him. So at times, it had a look where Ayo would be higher by himself and then when we did that, Deandre with Jayden, defensively, were a little bit deeper. But when we had the ball, they did a very good job of moving into those spaces on -- just on the outside of their sixes. So at that point, it's [Sofiane] Djeffal and [Chris] Durkin.

So we had now an ability to play through their first, you know, where they have a sort of a front three. So they play 3-4-2-1 or something like that.

So when we played past that front three, I thought we had a good finish to the first half finding some of those spaces, and yes, that got Jesús into some really good areas. If I remember the goal right, I think maybe Michael stepped up on a loose ball or tackle or interception and played it to Jesús and Jesús was able to slip a really good ball to Ayo.

So yes, we were hoping he would come underneath right from the start but then we made a change at the water break at the 30-minute mark where he was now playing underneath Ayo more.

Q. Can you tell us what was like in that heat? What were the conditions like?

Hot and humid. It helped to move the game from 4:00 to 6:30. It would have been better to move it from 4:00 to 8:00. It's a hot, humid day, and when you haven't played in these kind of conditions yet, it's even harder. But I thought the players handled it very well.

Q. Your post-game demeanor doesn't seem to change a lot after a the last-minute goal for a win, draw or loss, but were you feeling somewhat relieved or happy were you feeling when Oso scored that goal with about a minute left in the game?

Yeah, I felt great for the guys. I felt like we were still pushing. I mentioned at the beginning, this group has faced some challenges and there's never been any part of the situation other than trying to say, this is how you become a good team. This is the work.

It's hard work, I promise you. After a game -- after every day, there's a lot to do right now, and so even in games as a coaching staff, I think we find ourselves probably needing to adjust tactically different times during the game, which once we get the team exactly where we want, that's not going to be as necessary. That's for sure. So when you see these guys fight and continue on this in these kind of conditions, get that goal, what was I thinking? I was actually thinking, maybe there's time to get one more. But it's still a well-earned point.

AYO AKINOLA - FORWARD, TORONTO FC

Q. It's been a long time since you were able to make a start for the club. How did that goal feel?

It felt really good. I was very happy with the fact that we were able to tie the game up near halftime. Gives us a bit of a breather to regroup. But for me personally, I'm very happy.

Q. Does it complete the return of surgery, you're starting, you're scoring, you're back?

Just consistent part of being on the team sheet, you know, when it comes to who Bob wants to put on his 11 -- for me, it's just the consistency part of it now.

Q. How hot was it out there?

It was hot. That's why I didn't really celebrate like that. It was too hot. After I scored and I got back up, I didn't really try to do much. Yeah, it was pretty hot.

Q. What does a result like that do after struggling?

I think it can make us go forward. It just shows you the resiliency that we have as a team, the mental toughness; that when we are down, we can come back, tie the game or even win it. The mentality from last year to this year definitely has shifted. You know, when situations like this happen, you know, how we come back when we're down, how do we find the resiliency and hard work, how do we prevail to go back. For us personally, I think it can help us with momentum.

Q. Can you take us through that goal, how it played out for you?

When Michael -- I think we were on a break or I think it was -- I think Jayden on the left and Jesús carrying up the ball with me on the right. Even though Jesús played a wonderful pass, he could have shot it as well but the unselfishness on his part in trusting me, to play me. For me, I see Hamid come out, I could either slide it through or chip it but for me I just wanted to like just bury it, just smack it. You know, just for us to be tied up, you know, I think that was really important for us confidence-wise knowing that we're back in the game.

Q. Deandre seems to have taken to that central role. What have you seen from him these recent weeks? What's working for him?

His ability to dribble, to beat 1v1. When he has space, just the ability to beat guys, really good feet as a midfielder, being that guy that can break pressure. In that central role, Deandre, has done a really, really great job of that.


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