Toronto FC has no space for er­ror against the Galaxy

Both teams are on the out­side look­ing in at the play­off pic­ture in MLS

Waterloo Region Record - - Sports - NEIL DAVID­SON

TORONTO — There have been plenty of ex­cuses for Toronto FC’s poor play, from the gru­elling early-sea­son de­mands of the CONCACAF Cham­pion League to the string of in­juries that fol­lowed.

But the bot­tom line is far sim­pler. “At the end of the day, I’ve said it over the past cou­ple of months, it just hasn’t been good enough at times,” vet­eran de­fender Drew Moor said of the TFC show­ing. “We’ve given up too many goals, (be it from) lack of con­cen­tra­tion or what­ever it is.

“You can point to a lot of things. But it’s been a tough year. You just kind of shake your head.”

Nine points out of the play­offs with seven games re­main­ing, Toronto hosts the Los An­ge­les Galaxy on Satur­day night in the lat­est in a line of must-win games that it has so far failed to win.

A Toronto loss or draw cou­pled with a Mon­treal vic­tory in Philadel­phia could ef­fec­tively sound the death knell for the de­fend­ing MLS cham­pi­ons’ play­off hopes. Rub­bing salt into the TFC wound is the fact that the surg­ing Seat­tle Sounders (12-9-5), whom they beat in last year’s MLS Cup, are go­ing after a ninth win in a row.

In re­cent days, thanks to a no-holds­barred postgame anal­y­sis from cap­tain Michael Bradley last time out, Toronto’s men­tal­ity has come un­der scru­tiny. Un­like last year’s cham­pi­onship run when TFC found ways to win games, this team has found ways to lose this year.

The lat­est ex­am­ple was Sept. 1 in a 4-2 loss to vis­it­ing Los An­ge­les FC. Toronto, after los­ing pos­ses­sion, coughed up a freak dou­ble-de­flec­tion goal to go be­hind 1-0 and then con­ceded two goals in three min­utes early in the sec­ond half to dig it­self a 3-0 hole.

“We didn’t come out in the sec­ond half with the be­lief, in my mind, that we could go and still win the game which we had ev­ery right to still be­lieve,” Moor said.

“Prob­a­bly the men­tal­ity was lack­ing at the start of that sec­ond half ... You can’t wait to get punched in the mouth to have a good men­tal­ity,” he added. “It has to be from the start.

“The men­tal­ity is al­ways there. It just needs to be stronger right now.”

Last year, TFC was a con­fi­dent fron­trun­ner. It was 19-1-2 when scor­ing the first goal and 1-4-5 when con­ced­ing the first score.

This year it is 7-1-5 when scor­ing first and a league-worst 0-13-1 when con­ced­ing first.

“That’s ridicu­lous and it speaks to a men­tal­ity that in too many cases is too frag­ile,” Bradley said of the team’s in­abil­ity to win when giv­ing up the first goal.

De­fence has let the cham­pi­ons down. Toronto, which con­ceded just 37 goals in 34 games dur­ing last sea­son’s cham­pi­onship run, has yielded 52 goals in 27 games al­ready.

There will be plenty of of­fence on the field Satur­day in a series that has a high­scor­ing his­tory.

Se­bas­tian Giovinco, Jonathan Oso­rio, Vic­tor Vazquez, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic, Ro­main Alessan­drini and Ola Ka­mara have 59 goals and 43 as­sists be­tween them this sea­son.

The win­ning team has scored three or more goals in three of the last four meet­ings be­tween the two, with Toronto win­ning 4-0 at StubHub Cen­ter last September.

TFC and L.A., mean­while, have con­ceded 106 goals be­tween them this sea­son.

And they have given up goals in bunches. The Galaxy have con­ceded three or more goals nine times in league play this sea­son. Toronto has done so seven times.

The Galaxy — win­less in six games (0-3-3) dur­ing which they were outscored 18-8 — parted ways with head coach Sigi Sch­mid this week. In­terim coach Do­minic Kin­n­ear will lead the team Satur­day.

“It’s a cup fi­nal,” Moor said of Satur­day’s show­down. “We have to treat it as that, just do ev­ery­thing we can to win a game ... I’m feel­ing con­fi­dent that we’ll go out and do what we have to do to get the three points. Be­cause any­thing less is not go­ing to be good enough.”

Toronto has won just once in the last six games (1-3-2) and col­lected 13 of an avail­able

42 points over the last 14 games (3-7-4). Since June 8, Toronto has beaten just Chicago (twice) and Mon­treal in league play.

TFC has to get past New Eng­land, D.C. United and Mon­treal to se­cure the sixth and last play­off spot in the East.

The good news for eighth-place Los An­ge­les (10-10-8) is that it is only three points out of the play­offs in the West­ern Con­fer­ence.

Ibrahi­movic says he’s ready to shoul­der the pres­sure to make the play­offs.

“Pres­sure we like. I love pres­sure,” Ibrahi­movic told re­porters in Los An­ge­les. “I’ll take (my team­mates) pres­sure and put it on me so they don’t need to feel pres­sure.”

CHRIS YOUNG THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

In wel­com­ing the Los An­ge­les Galaxy to BMO Field on Satur­day, Toronto FC and for­ward Se­bas­tian Giovinco is open­ing the door to a team al­most as des­per­ate as it is.

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