HARRISON, N.J. — One game into his MLS career and goalkeeper Luka Gavran delivered a precise summary of Toronto FC's latest season gone wrong.
"We don't see the good things that we do because of the poor things we do more often," Gavran said after not getting much help Sunday in a 3-0 loss to New York City FC in his MLS debut.
Toronto (4-16-10) shot itself in the foot on the first two goals, giving the ball away.
"We knew New York had quality and they punished us for two really difficult turnovers in key moments of the first half," lamented interim coach Terry Dunfield.
"In-between there was some nice football and I think that that's probably how you could paraphrase my tenure (as coach)," he added.
Coming off a 4-0 midweek loss at Inter Miami, Toronto has won just one of its last 17 games (1-13-3) in all competitions. The club is 1-11-0 and has been outscored 28-6 since Bob Bradley was fired as head coach and sporting director in late June.
Toronto has four regular-season games remaining with former Canada coach John Herdman, who takes over the team on Oct. 1, in charge for the final three.
The challenge that awaits him is massive.
The loss officially eliminated Toronto from playoff contention, although any such hope had disappeared months ago. TFC has failed to make the playoffs the last three years after making the MLS Cup final three times between 2016 and 2019, lifting the trophy in 2017.
Andrés Perea opened the scoring in the second minute for New York. Andres Jasson doubled the lead in first-half stoppage time and Julián Fernández upped the lead to 3-0 in the 54th.
New York could have added to its lead but was wasteful at times with Gavran saving a penalty among other shots.
"I think he can be proud of his performance," said Dunfield. "Unfortunately on his debut you want to be leaving the changing room with a nice feeling and three points. But he's worked his ass off for that opportunity and been patient as well. We've been just waiting for the right moment to give him his debut."
Toronto selected the 23-year-old from Hamilton in the second round (31st overall) of the 2022 MLS SuperDraft out of St. John's.
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday evening but was pushed back a day because of a water main break at the Red Bull Arena. NYCFC normally plays at Yankee Stadium but has to shift operations when the baseball team is in town.
The Yankees were also forced to postpone their game Saturday game with the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks, citing "the forecast of sustained inclement weather" due to Tropical Storm Ophelia. The baseball game was rescheduled for Monday at Yankee Stadium.
NYCFC struck quickly in the rain, with Toronto's defence found wanting after Talles Magno pounced on a poor pass by Toronto midfielder Alonso Coello. The Brazilian found Uruguayan designated player Santi Rodriguez, whose cross was headed home by Perea.
Gavran was left rooted to the spot as the NYCFC attackers were allowed to operate in space.
It was the first goal in NYCFC colours for Perea, a U.S. international midfielder who is on loan from the Philadelphia Union.
Video review triggered a New York penalty when Toronto centre back Shane O'Neill, who was falling at the time, was called for handball in blocking a shot by Algerian forward Mounsef Bakrar. But the six-foot-six Gavran got a foot to Bakrar's 39th-minute penalty attempt.
Jasson made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time, pivoting to fire a low shot into the corner of the goal for his third of the season. The play started with Toronto fullback Kobe Franklin losing the ball.
Toronto had six players plus Gavran in the penalty box but was unable to close down the NYCFC attackers.
Themi Antonoglou replaced Toronto fullback Raoul Petretta at halftime and was victimized nine minutes later when Fernández outpaced him before finding the corner for his first MLS goal.
There was no giveaway this time. Just an 11-pass NYCFC sequence that started with a throw-in and ended with Fernández steaming towards goal with little opposition.
New York outshot Toronto 17-10 (8-3 in shots on target).
The win moved New York (8-10-13) above the playoff line in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of D.C. United. Toronto remains mired in 15th and last place.
"I thought as a team we played really well tonight," said coach Nick Cushing. "We played with real purpose."
NYCFC is unbeaten in its last five games (3-0-2) after winning just two of its previous 21 outings (2-11-8) in all competitions. That slide started with a 1-0 loss in Toronto on April 29.
Toronto has had little luck of late at Red Bull Arena, thumped 5-0 there in July by NYCFC in Leagues Cup play in July.
Toronto is now winless in 19 straight road games (0-15-4) in all competitions. Its last away goal was scored by Deandre Kerr in a 2-1 loss June 24 at the New England Revolution.
TFC has been outscored 19-0 in the six road matches since, a goalless drought away from home that stretches 619 minutes.
TFC is the only team in the league yet to win on the road this season (0-11-4). Its last win away from BMO Field was Aug. 27, 2022, in Charlotte.
Italian star Lorenzo Insigne, listed as questionable with a lower body injury, did not dress. A team spokeswoman said the former Napoli captain was being held out as a precaution after feeling soreness/tightness following the midweek game.
Captain Michael Bradley returned to his accustomed midfield position with O'Neill slotting into centre back.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2023.
The Canadian Press