Head Coach Aron Winter and his players are beginning to sound like broken records in attempt to explain what ails the team.
Toronto had already hit a new low after its loss last weekend by recording the worst start in franchise history. TFC, without Danny Koevermans who suffered a groin injury in training, sunk even lower losing 3-2 to the visiting Chicago Fire at BMO Field. The team has now lost all six games in MLS play this season and sits at the bottom of the league table without a point.
TFC made its trademark mistakes all in one game – a bad start leading to an early goal, missed coverage on a set piece, allowing the opponent to strike back immediately after scoring and giving up a goal in transition. The team was already down a goal, but the only thing missing was giving up a late goal to blow a lead or to lose a game.
“I think if we score two goals we should win the game,” said frustrated striker Ryan Johnson. “It’s our fault giving up three goals, especially ones off of set pieces right after we score, a minute after. That’s on the players.
“We have to be more accountable of our markers. These mistakes are killing us, it’s killing Toronto and our fans. It’s hard to keep letting down our fans every week and it is really starting to get to me.”
With each loss the team is slipping further and further away from the goal of making the playoffs for the first time in its existence. Time may be running out before the remainder of the season is rendered meaningless.
“Yeah it has to or otherwise we’re not going to have any more chances to fight for this season,” said goalkeeper Milos Kocic. “It’s already, I think, a bit late. We can still change it but it’s kind of like the last train to catch.”
“I want to bounce back after this game but it’s very difficult for me. I’ve never had such a stretch of six games to lose in my career.”
Winter still has hope and that season can still be salvaged. Toronto is lucky to be playing in a weak Eastern Conference where many other teams have also struggled, but have been able to pick up points. The coach also continues to see positives including the team being able to break its scoring drought at home. But the team’s mistakes and inability to score when it counts are still big concerns for the Dutch coach.
“I know, but we have 28 other games to play, but still it’s not a nice period,” said Winter. “You are creating a lot of opportunities and but you don’t make the calls and it looks like you are making the same mistakes, to not be as sharp or focused or whatever. That you give away so very easy the game.
“I think in the second half we tried to play football, create chances, but at the moment when you have to be in the box or sharp for the second ball or opportunity that you get, you are not make the goals and the opponent needs a half chance and there is always a goal.
It was thought the return of captain Torsten Frings to the lineup, who missed five weeks of action due to a hamstring injury, would spur the team onto its first MLS win. Not only did that not happen but he was the culprit in giving up the game’s first goal just 25 seconds into the match.
Frings had his pocket picked by Patrick Nyarko while making a clearance. The German international was very slow on the ball and the turnover was knocked to an open Dominic Oduro who put the ball underneath a sliding Kocic. The goal was the fifth fastest in MLS history and the franchise’s fastest as well.
“We give the goals away with a lot of mistakes. My mistake too,” said Frings not absolving himself of any guilt on his early costly error. “We have to try and make it better. It’s not easy if you have six games that we lost. Now it’s very important that we keep improving things and working hard during training and try again next week.”
TFC struck even in the 37th minute when Reds forward Reggie Lambe unleashed a beautiful hard line drive shot that blew past diving Fire keeper Sean Johnson and into the top of the net.
Lambe was in the right place at the right time in the 40th minute when a Ryan Johnson cross bounced to him in the six-yard box. He wasted no time by roofing into the back of the net and gave Toronto a 2-1 lead. The team seemed vindicated after its early mistake but the elation did not last long.
Just over a minute later, Fire’s Sebastian Grazzini played a free kick from the right side into the box and it was flicked in by Gonzalo Segares overtop of Kocic to tie the game.
Toronto, perhaps being too offensive minded in the second half, got caught in transition in the 58th minute. On a fast break, Oduro from the centre of the pitch played the ball behind Frings and Nyarko made a diagonal run to get to the ball first. The midfielder then made a great first touch to knock the ball away from a charging Kocic and he turned to fire it into a gaping net.
TFC had numerous chances as the second half wound down but like the week before against Chivas USA, the Reds were simply unable to finish. The best chance came in the 77th minute and was created by Julian de Guzman, who after being benched the previous match came on for ineffective Terry Dunfield.
He sent a long ball into the box and Johnson jumped over former Red Dan Gargan to head the ball off the base of the near post before it was frantically cleared away.
“I’m hitting the post. Last week I got two balls cleared off the line, I mean it happens,” said Johnson of his unlucky streak. “I’m continuing to get myself scoring chances, I think I set one up today for Reggie (Lambe) so I’m trying to do my part. It’s really hard for us right now.”
For Lambe, his goals were a special moment for him individually, but it was spoiled by the game’s outcome.
“Very special. It’s my first professional career goal ever so I really enjoyed it,” said Lambe. “It felt good to be out there, playing, to be winning but disappointed to come away with a loss.”
After two matches at home Toronto will now embark on trip out west to play Western Conference leaders Real Salt Lake next weekend. The game will kick off at 9 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium on April 28.
Aman Dhanoa is a Toronto sports beat reporter covering games live and bringing Digital Journal insights from within the locker room.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times