TORONTO — Last weekend’s 2-1 loss at New York City FC was not, on the face of it, the worst result of Toronto FC’s season so far.
Despite the host’s position near the top of the standings and the narrow scoreline, though, it has set alarm bells ringing more than most. What made TFC’s latest defeat — it’s eighth in 15 league games ahead of Sunday’s meeting with the New York Red Bulls — concerning was not that they lost so much as it was the way they did so.
The nature of NYCFC’s winning goal has drawn much scrutiny. When Marky Delgado’s pass towards Victor Vázquez ran just out of the Catalan’s reach, Vázquez and three other TFC players ahead of the ball keeled over, hands on knees. (Gregory van der Wiel, to his credit, tracked back.)
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) June 24, 2018
It was not a good look and raised all sorts of questions, ranging from the togetherness in the TFC locker room to the physical condition of a squad split between players who have been fending off injuries and those who have logged heavy minutes due to the absence of many of their teammates.
When asked if the team remained united and on the same page following Friday’s training session, captain Michael Bradley replied with one word before the question had been completed: “Yes.”
Toronto coach Greg Vanney put the moment down to a combination of factors including heat-related fatigue and frustration at the failed attack, but admitted it was “just one that needs to be better by our group”.
Vanney believes the Reds’ position six points out of the playoffs is creating a level of urgency in their performances that has left them vulnerable at the back and is not sustainable for a full match.
“I think these things get a little exacerbated by the fact that — and this was kind of my message to the group — we feel like we have to get a win, we have to get a win, we have to get a win,” he said. “And so sometimes I think we get a little extended trying to win the game early when over 90 minutes, if we just stick to what we do, then we give ourselves the best chance to win the game.
“That was something that we were so good at last year. A lot of that is we were able to get the first goal and be able to control the game thereafter. Now I just feel like the position that we’re in — that we feel like we’re in, because I think more of it is perception than reality in some ways — is that in one game we have to get back into the playoff picture. Well, that’s not possible. You can’t get six, eight, 12 points in one game. We just have to stick to the process and allow, over time, for us to start accumulating points. But you can’t force the points. Otherwise you end up exposing yourself.
“I feel like at times, our mindset is that we have to go force this in to get a win instead of being content with the fact that it’s the 60th minute, and 1-1 is okay, and we’ll see how the next 20 or 30 minutes play out. We just need to settle back into our process, and our process is actually from minute one to minute 90. Our process is how we prepare for every game. That kind of a mindset is what we need to shift and just trust that through our qualities in what we do, that we’ll get the result.”
Bradley remains convinced that “things will come around” as long as TFC’s mentality remains strong.
“The message is we’ve got to, little by little, get back to who we are and what has made us successful,” he added. “That’s on an individual level, that’s the group together, but anybody looking for the magic potion to just say this is it, this is what we need, this is going to fix everything — that’s not reality, that doesn’t exist.”