Toronto FC's Loss Demands Urgent Changes

Forge FC Upsets Toronto FC, Increasing Pressure on Coach John Herdman
Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls
Toronto FC v New York Red Bulls / Howard Smith/ISI Photos/GettyImages

On Wednesday night, Toronto FC was caught off guard by Forge FC in Hamilton, in a game that raised many questions and offered few answers. In a crucial clash in the Canadian Championship semifinal, the Reds lost 2-1 to an opponent that shouldn't have posed such a significant challenge for a team of Toronto FC's caliber.

The first half was a horror show for Toronto. John Herdman, perhaps in a desperate attempt to find a magic formula, made five changes from the team that started against Columbus Crew. Sean Johnson, Kevin Long, Matty Longstaff, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, and Prince Owusu were replaced by Luka Gavran, Aimé Mabika, Kobe Franklin, Deybi Flores, and Lorenzo Insigne. The decision seemed promising on paper, but the reality on the field was a cold splash of water.

Follow MLS Multiplex on X (Twitter).

Just five minutes in, Lorenzo Insigne had a golden chance, a precise shot that dangerously missed the goal, but not enough to open the scoring. And then, as if struck by fate, Béni Badibanga decided to try his luck from 60 meters out, and succeeded, with an impressive shot, to open the scoring for Forge FC. It was one of those moments where you wonder if the universe is conspiring against you. Three minutes later, Kwasi Poku extended the lead, capitalizing on a low cross from David Choinière. Toronto FC's defense looked like a ship adrift in a storm.

Halftime arrived, and with it, the urgency for changes. Herdman brought back Matty Longstaff and Prince Owusu in an attempt to turn the game around. But the tide wasn't willing to turn. Forge FC continued pressing, with Tristan Borges forcing a crucial save from Luka Gavran and a shot from Choinière that hit the post.

Prince Owusu nearly scored for Toronto with a header in the 55th minute, but Kalongo, Forge FC's goalkeeper, was there to deny the goal. It was a real cat-and-mouse game, with chances on both sides and palpable tension in the air. Luka Gavran kept Toronto in the game with spectacular saves, but it seemed only a matter of time before Forge FC sealed the match's fate.

At the 88-minute mark, a glimmer of hope: Prince Owusu scored for Toronto, pushing the ball into the net after an acrobatic save by Kalongo. That moment of relief, where everything seemed possible again. Insigne nearly managed an equalizer with a curving shot in the final minute, but Kalongo made a stunning save. The last gasp came with Deandre Kerr, who saw his header hit the post in stoppage time.

Now, the big question is: what will John Herdman do? The pressure is mounting, and the fans are not happy. Tactical decisions, substitutions, everything is under scrutiny. The 2-1 loss gives Forge FC a considerable advantage for the second leg. Toronto FC has seven weeks to regroup, adjust their strategy, and find a way to overcome this setback. The second match will be on August 27th at BMO Field.

Meanwhile, Toronto FC has to turn their attention back to MLS. On Saturday, they face Philadelphia Union at home, and expectations are high. The mistakes from Hamilton can't be repeated. The season is far from lost, but time is running out. Hope still exists, but it needs to be fueled by victories and convincing performances.