Chivas USA, playing with 10 men for the final 65 minutes, used Erick Torres' goal in the 79th minute to secure a 1-0 victory Wednesday night at the StubHub Center and break a 14-match winless streak.
"It's badly disappointing," Toronto defender Steven Caldwell said. "You should never lose by a goal against 10 men. In 65 minutes, we certainly should break down a team that plants back and waits."
Toronto FC (2-10-7), winless in its past five, has not scored in four of those games and has been held without a goal eight times this season.
"We're getting chances," forward Justin Braun said. "We're getting the ball in the box. We're just not connecting. That final pass is too far in front or too far behind the guy."
Toronto demonstrated that tendency in the 29th minute, when Jeremy Brockie placed a right-wing cross barely ahead of Robert Earnshaw's run toward goal.
Four minutes later, Brockie had a chance to score after receiving Jonathan Osorio's pass from the left side of the penalty area and beating defender Carlos Bocanegra. But Brockie directed a 3-yard shot just wide of the right post.
"That one in the first half was a golden chance," Toronto coach Ryan Nelsen said of Brockie's shot. "I feel if we had gotten one goal, it would have been two or three."
Nelsen said his team controlled the game until Chivas USA's Eric Avila received a red card in the 25th minute for a hard tackle on Toronto's Darel Russell.
"When it was 11-v-11, we were by far the stronger team," Nelsen said. "Everything was going according to plan. When Chivas lost the man, they got numbers behind the ball. It made it very hard hard for us.
"If it was 11-v-11 and the game continued in the fashion it was going in the first 15, 20 minutes, it would have been a lot easier. They would have committed more guys forward and we would have had space to attack."
Torres, a 20-year old on loan from Mexico's CD Guadalajara, finished a counterattack with a 23-yard shot that deflected off Caldwell's leg into the net. It was his first goal and his first game for Chivas USA.
"You're always vulnerable on a mistake or a random counterattack," Nelsen said. "We got caught with a sucker punch."