Toronto Star

Miami learning to handle adversity

After rough 2-8-2 start, the Herons are unbeaten in their last five games

- NEIL DAVIDSON

Toronto FC could do well to take a page out of the book of Inter Miami, Tuesday’s visitor to BMO Field, and hope that it can get to where Phil Neville’s second-year MLS team is.

After a 2-8-2 start, Miami has three successive clean sheets, is unbeaten in five games (4-0-1) and has only lost one of its last 10 (6-1-3) to move within two points of a playoff spot. Toronto, last in the 27-team league, has lost five straight, gone winless in eight and last won on July 24. The Reds lost their last game to Cincinnati, which had been winless in 12 games.

Neville knows what Toronto has been going through.

“When you are suffering, confidence and belief drains from you. But when you start getting good results, the confidence starts coming back to you,” he said. “You then realize that there’s actually some really good football players in this football club and then you start playing more as a team.

“Mentality, attitude, intensity — being able to handle adversity, I think, has been the biggest thing that we’ve been absolutely sensationa­l with. The ability to take punches, the ability to bounce back from disappoint­ments, the ability to support each other in difficult moments (is) something that I think has been our most impressive thing.”

Neville offers a simple quote from Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots: “Just do your job.”

“That’s what we have done over the last six to eight weeks. We’ve just done our job — individual­ly, collective­ly and as a team.”

Of course, as with most things involving Belichick, there is more to it than that.

“Maybe the one word that isn’t in that sentence that’s implied but not stated is, ‘Do your job well.’ Take care of the one or two, three things that we’ve emphasized all week and we’ll be OK,” Belichick said in NFL Films’ “Do Your Job: Bill Belichick and the 2014 New England Patriots.”

Neville says Miami has worked hard to handle adversity.

“Because this was a team that maybe two months ago, when we conceded a goal, it affected us really, really badly,” he said. “We conceded a goal, the team would probably lose confidence and belief in each other and confidence and belief in the game plan that we had. And we’ve worked really hard on the mental toughness of the team … on players sticking to doing their jobs.”

Perez says it’s important to take the right approach, given the team’s current woes.

“There’s no point beating up a team that’s already down,” Perez said. “I believe that everybody wants to do a good job and only we can get out of the situation.

“It’s more about how you can give support and build the confidence of the players. Because, at the end of the day, the games are coming very fast … We need to get these guys back very quickly into some kind of condition to win games.”

Toronto fullback Richie Laryea says the club is doing all it can to stay positive.

“It obviously doesn’t feel good to be in the state that we’re in right now,” he said. “So we’re trying a lot of very different things and hoping it helps us and moves us in a better direction.

“We have to just take these next 11 games and get something out of them for us and obviously for the fans.”

Toronto will be without two of its three designated players, with reigning league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo missing a second straight game due to a lower body injury. Star striker Jozy Altidore is recovering from ankle surgery.

Forward Ayo Akinola and midfielder Ralph Priso are both gone for the season after undergoing their own surgeries.

Miami won 3-1 when the clubs met in August in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

 ?? RHONA WISE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Toronto FC attacker Yeferson Soteldo, right, battles Inter Miami midfielder Lewis Morgan for the ball during the teams’ Aug. 21 match in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which Miami won 3-1.
RHONA WISE THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Toronto FC attacker Yeferson Soteldo, right, battles Inter Miami midfielder Lewis Morgan for the ball during the teams’ Aug. 21 match in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which Miami won 3-1.

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