Toronto FC ran the gamut of emotions Saturday night in a disappointing 1-1 tie with the Colorado Rapids, a struggling side that does not travel well.
But even with a lineup missing five starters, TFC's bottom line was two points lost against a 6-11-2 Colorado team that is 20 points below the league leaders.
On the plus side, Toronto (11-3-7) led 1-0 after just five minutes with Canadian midfielder Jay Chapman notching his first-ever MLS goal.
Classy Frenchman Benoit Cheyrou ran the midfield in the absence of captain Michael Bradley, one of three Gold Cup absentees.
Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez helped set up Chapman's goal with a laser-like pass to Sebastian Giovinco, whose ball from the byline created mayhem in the Colorado box. Vazquez triggered the Toronto attack all night, leading all players on the field with four chances created and ranking second with 81 touches.
Giovinco bounced back from a lower back bruise suffered midweek in a 2-2 tie with New York City FC to start against the Rapids. And centre back Nick Hagglund returned from a 10-week absence due to a torn ligament in his knee.
Toronto remains unbeaten at BMO Field this season (7-0-3).
On the minus side of the ledger, Cheyrou had to leave late in the first half with an apparent calf injury and the home side wasn't the same after his departure. The offence misfired with just four of 15 shots on target.
Young fullback Raheem Edwards remains a work in progress, mixing electrifying moves with momentum-numbing missteps. And Panamanian midfielder Armando Cooper gave the ball away in the 76th minute, three minutes after he came on as a substitute, leading to Colorado's tying goal.
Toronto teammates and acting coach Robin Fraser refused to point the finger at Cooper, although Fraser noted giveaways were momentum-killers. But in the heat of the moment defender Eriq Zavaleta had a go at Cooper on the field after the costly giveaway resulted in Dominique Badji's low shot to the corner of the goal.
Cooper's stock has fallen this season with Toronto midfield openings few and far between. Bradley and Vazquez are automatic starters in the three-man midfield at the heart of Toronto's favoured 3-5-2 formation.
Marky Delgado, who led all players Saturday with six tackles and 90 touches, has won the battle for the third spot. A hard-worker with a good engine who often goes under the radar, Delgado moves the ball quickly as opposed to the more mercurial Cooper, who likes to change gears as he takes on defenders — at times dawdling like a bullfighter trying to frustrate a bull into charging.
With third-place New York City FC defeating second-place Chicago 2-1 earlier in the day, Toronto missed an opportunity to pad its lead to four points atop the Eastern Conference. TFC, which now leads the Fire by two points, hosts NYCFC next Sunday.
Toronto was also without striker Jozy Altidore and fullback Justin Morrow, who like Bradley are with the U.S. at the Gold Cup. Fullback Steven Beitashour is still recovering from pancreas surgery.
Altidore is missed by Giovinco, who has more room to operate when his burly buddy is on the field. And the value of Morrow and Beitashour to the team is underlined every time they don't take the pitch.
A trainer put newly acquired Nicolas Hasler through a workout on the field before Saturday's game. The Liechtenstein international has yet to make his debut but could be an option at right fullback on Sunday against visiting NYCFC.
Clint Irwin got a rare start in goal Saturday as Alex Bono was given the night off. Irwin started the year as No. 1 but Bono, given a chance through injury, has now made the job his own.
Bono, always seen as the future No. 1 by the coaching staff, has been so convincing that the change in hierarchy has merited little ink. For the record, TFC coaches say they have two quality goalkeepers if the subject is broached.
That is true but the 23-year-old Bono is more athletic and more commanding with a good track record of making the big save when needed. Bono's confidence has also grown by leaps and bounds.
How Vanney handles the return of Hagglund, a starter alongside Zavaleta and veteran Drew Moor prior to the knee injury, will be interesting to watch. Taking over from Hagglund after he injury, France's Chris Mavinga has made the left side of the back three his own. Zavaleta is a constant on the right.
Vanney may look to reduce Moor's playing time to keep the 33-year-old fresh. While Moor is a consummate professional with an exemplary work ethic and attitude, the athletic Hagglund is the future.
Just 24, Hagglund already has 66 regular-season games under his belt.
While Saturday's tie was two points lost, Toronto's gritty late comeback midweek in New York should not be forgotten.
But with TFC setting the bar high this season, any misstep is noticeable.
Colorado recorded its first road point of the season (0-7-1) thanks to just its third away goal of 2017.
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