HOUSTON — With its top stars sidelined in preparation of the second leg of Toronto FC's CONCACAF Champions League final against Chivas Guadalaraja in Mexico next week, head coach Greg Vanney still expected his reserves to compete against Houston Dynamo on Saturday.
Despite their efforts, Toronto FC fell 5-1 to Houston, putting the defending MLS Cup champions 17 points back of first place in the Eastern Conference.
"It was an opportunity to get some guys that haven't played a lot of minutes this year, but are important parts of the team," Vanney said. "It was also an opportunity to see some of our younger players play. So it assesses where everybody is at, and that's what we took out of the night.
Romell Quioto had a goal and two assists and Joe Willis made six saves for the Dynamo (2-2-2), who snapped a four-game winless streak.
Mauro Manotas, a 22-year-old in his fourth season with the Dynamo, scored in the third minute, Jose Leonardo Ribeiro da Silva made added a goal in the seventh. Quioto poked it away from Toronto's Julian Dunn-Johnson to Manotas, who took a couple steps and tapped it in from just inside the box to open the scoring and Leonardo trapped a clearance and rolled it just inside the post from the top of the area.
Quioto beat Dunn on the left side and, after his cross was deflected by a defender, Eric Alexander finished from point blank range to make it 3-0 early in the second half.
Mitchell Taintor headed home a corner kick from Ager Aketxe for his first MLS goal to put Toronto (1-4-0) on the board in the 52nd minute, but Quioto fed Alberth Elis for a goal in the 60th and then capped the scoring in the 77th.
Vanney said a number of the team's reserves impressed him, including midfielder Liam Frazer and defenders Jason Hernandez and Ryan Telfer.
"For a lot of them, it's little details, being a little less naive in some moments but I think some guys did all right. In the end, I think the game probably should've been seven or eight to four, so having said that, we had good moments in the attack, but we had too many breakdowns defensively," he said.
Midfielder Alan Mino said he and his fellow backups were out to prove they can contribute to the team going forward.
"I think the team's focus right now is the CONCACAF Champions League," Mino said. "The last couple of games some of us who might have had the opportunity to play has been playing, in my case, this is my first game, but there is a reason we are here, and we need to show why."
Toronto FC will take on Chivas on Wednesday at Estadio Akron in Guadalajara. They lost the opening leg 2-1 at home Tuesday.
Vanney said after the final the team will shift its focus back to its long climb back up the MLS standings
"Last year, at the end of six games we had seven points and won the league by 13 or 14 points, so it's doable," he said.
"It's not something we had planned for, but sometimes when you play games in between CONCACAF finals you have to do what you have to do. We were fortunate enough that the league was able to move some of the earlier games around, but somehow not in the stretch here in the final, so we prioritized trying to win the final for the CONCACAF, and it is what it is."
— with files from The Canadian Press