SPORTS

Houston spoils Toronto FC's home opener with 2-1 road win at new-look BMO Field

05/10/2015 07:07 EDT | Updated 05/10/2016 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - A failed Toronto FC comeback in its long-awaited home opener may have had fans wondering where all that late urgency had been earlier in the 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo.

But for Toronto coach Greg Vanney, Sunday's defeat before a BMO Field record crowd of 30,226 was a lesson learned.

Habits and strategies learned to survive seven straight league games on the road don't necessarily work at home.

"As I said to the guys in there, our fans want us to come out and fight, and to come out and be proactive and to come out and be aggressors," Vanney said. "And to show we that want to defend this stadium and this field and this city. And today we were way too passive.

"That for us is a lesson on how we're going to win at home. And I think once we've established that, hopefully today (with), that lesson, things will be different as we move forward."

Goals by Boniek Garcia and Will Bruin either side of halftime gave the Dynamo a 2-0 lead.

Toronto's Jozy Altidore, with his fifth of the season, headed home a Jonathan Osorio cross in the 77th minute to make for a tense ending, especially with six minutes of added time.

The victory snapped a four-game winless streak for Houston (3-4-4). Toronto (3-5-0) missed its chance to get back to .500 on home soil after a lengthy road trip due to stadium renovations.

"As I said to Greg at the end, I truly believe that Toronto will be up there challenging, not only to make the playoffs but obviously challenging to win the conference," said Houston coach Owen Coyle. "The quality they have is there for everyone to see. So we knew we were going to have to be at our best and I think we were tonight.

"I think we were very deserving of the three points, although we gave ourselves a scare late on."

Vanney, who took over with 10 games remaining last season, installed an aggressive system in his first full pre-season with his squad. While TFC was not a one-formation team, it opened with fullbacks high and an ambitious midfield supporting Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.

That changed when the team, its backline fractured by injury and suspension, began to leak goals. Vanney installed flat lines of four at the back and in midfield, to tighten up the defence with Altidore and Giovinco relied on to counter-attack.

It worked against lesser teams in Orlando and Philadelphia. But at home Sunday, it only served to allow a Houston team winless on the road to gain possession and confidence.

"It didn't go exactly as we planned in that aspect," said captain Michael Bradley, who owned up to a "bad play" in conceding the penalty that led to Houston's first goal.

For Vanney, TFC has to learn when to turn it on at home. Bradley shared that view but came at it from a different angle, saying tough times on the road had perhaps led the team to overcompensate.

"We're still trying to find the right balance, the right way to get the best out of everybody," he said.

Poor defending and a misfiring offence (only four of Toronto's 22 shots were on target) did not help the Toronto cause Sunday.

The game was not a sellout with some empty seats in the new upper tier of the East Stand. An MLSE spokesman said not all the tickets were put on sale because of an issue with the railing.

It was a disappointing day for Toronto fans after a week of relentless hype over their team finally coming home.

"The stadium was amazing," said Vanney. "The fans were amazing. We needed to give them more early on to really cheer about and get behind us ... The experience, apart from the result, was amazing for the group."

Garcia's 44th-minute goal was the first goal conceded by Toronto in 287 minutes. Bradley conceded the penalty that led to the score when he chopped down DaMarcus Beasley as the Houston fullback sliced into the penalty area.

Chris Konopka saved the penalty but was beaten by Garcia's rebound shot. The Honduran celebrated by leading his teammates in an impromptu sideline dance.

Giles Barnes had missed a penalty for Houston in a 1-0 loss Tuesday to San Jose.

Bruin made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute, outpacing centre back Damien Perquis after taking a pass from Barnes who had split Bradley and Nick Hagglund.

In analysing the goal, Vanney noted mistakes by at least four Toronto players.

Giovinco was limping after the game, the result of a heel injury he said was not that serious.

___

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

MORE:cpSports