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Toronto FC falls to second straight loss, still looking for right balance


TORONTO — Ten games into the season and Toronto FC is very much still a work in progress.

Greg Vanney's team can score (22 goals) but a penchant for losing the ball in bad places is making life difficult on defence (17 goals conceded).

There was more evidence on display Saturday as Toronto (5-4-1) dropped a 2-1 decision to the surging Philadelphia Union (7-3-2).

Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo scored on a glorious free kick but Toronto paid for defensive miscues as a Chris Mavinga own goal and Jaimiro Monteiro's 68th-minute strike gave Philadelphia the win before an announced BMO Field crowd of 26,219.

To make matter worse, the offence has been creaky of late. Including a midweek loss in Atlanta, Toronto has managed just four shots on target in its last two games.

After Saturday's loss, captain Michael Bradley noted some of the mitigating factors to what has been a yo-yo run of form of late — star striker Jozy Altidore has missed action and Pozuelo was late arriving from Belgium. He could also have mentioned the absence of key defender Drew Moor.

Altidore returned in the second half after a three-game injury absence while Moor was on the bench Saturday. So the future looks brighter.

But for Vanney the team remains out of sync.

"When you concede as many goals as we have, we're fortunate that we've also scored as many goal as we have, but for me we've got to find a brighter balance in our performances in terms of purposeful attack and secure defending."

Bradley also sees room for improvement.

"In a perfect world we'd be sitting on a few more points and feel like some of these things were ironed out already. But that's life," he said with a sigh. "That's how it goes.

"There's been a lot of good moments, even as we're still trying to improve and push ourselves along. If you look at today, if you look at the last home game against Portland (a 2-1 loss), we shouldn't lose those games. Even with all that, we do enough in the games and are good enough that we should find ways to come away with points. That part we've let ourselves down on some different days."

Toronto has now lost three of its last four (1-3-0). And after going unbeaten the first four games of the season (3-0-1), it has gone loss-win-loss-win-loss-loss.

In the 25th minute, a Philadelphia counter-attack laid Toronto open.

Kai Wagner's low cross carved open the Toronto defence after a turnover led to a counter-attack. Fafa Picault and Mavinga both slid for the ball, which bounced in off the defender.

Toronto trailed 1-0 at the break.

"We were passing the ball around but there was no venom in our attack," said Vanney. "It was just a lot of passing around. While that's nice, it doesn't win games passing the ball around. You've got to have some urgency to want to attack, to want to force the other team to have to make plays in front of their goal, to create chances ... and we didn't."

Instead, Toronto lost possession and paid for it.

The home side came out swinging to start the second half and tied it up via Pozuelo's free kick in the 51st minute from 20 yards out.

Then Monteiro, taking a fine pass from Kacper Przybylko that split the defence, beat Quentin Westberg with a right-footed shot in the 68th minute to regain the lead. 

Toronto was down a man on the play with Brazilian fullback Auro unable to participate because his back locked up. Toronto also lost defender Laurent Ciman to an ankle injury in the 78th minute.

Toronto pressed hard as the clock wound down with the visitors doing their best to slow things down. That led to six tense, ill-tempered minutes of stoppage time

Philadelphia is now unbeaten in its last five outings (4-0-1), collecting 13 of a possible 15 points while outscoring its opposition 14-3. The Union have lost just once in their last 10 league games (7-1-2) while posting four shutouts and outscoring the opposition 22-7.

"Overall it was a really special win for the group," said coach Jim Curtin. "This team has now answered a lot of questions. You know initially the challenge was to get above the red line then it was to push for first place and stay in first place and today the challenge was against the top team in the East in their building and what would we look like. Every player to a man stepped up in a big way."

Philadelphia was coming off a 6-1 weekend win over New England that helped lead to Thursday's dismissal of Revolution coach Brad Friedel. The game before that was a 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati, who fired Alan Koch one loss later.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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