Toronto FC got a harsh dose of reality from coach John Herdman following Saturday's shoddy performance in a 4-1 loss to the visiting Chicago Fire.

Better is needed. Jobs are on the line. And TFC has a long way to go in its journey towards respectability.

"It's going to take time. We came into something that was broken," said Herdman, who inherited the worst team in Major League Soccer last October. "We've fixed some of it but there's more to be fixed for sure."

The repair job continues Wednesday against visiting Nashville SC (4-5-8).

After a strong start to the season, Toronto (7-8-3) has slipped to seventh in the Eastern Conference and is five points out of a top-four place that comes with home-field advantage to open the playoffs.

Herdman's side is winless in its last four league outings (0-2-2) and has won just one of its last seven (1-4-2) during which it has been outscored 16-13.

The nadir was Saturday's loss to Chicago, which saw Toronto gift the visitors goals with a variety of gaffes.

"I've never been this disappointed in 30 years of my coaching career with women, men, youth teams, whatever," an emotional Herdman said after the game. "This one sucks."

Two days later, Herdman was less emotional but still unhappy after seeing some of the announced crowd of 28,303 head for the exits at BMO Field early as his team conceded goals in the 57th, 60th and 89th minute.

"When you come out of the emotion, it's a 4-1 loss. It's a disappointing loss," Herdman said. "But for this group, they have to clean up defensively. We've made a commitment there to our fans, to each other, to make sure that it's more disciplined in all areas."

Still Herdman says jobs are on the line, noting a large number of his players (17) are on expiring contracts.

"People are playing for their futures here," he said.

"We've had a couple of good results. We're higher (in the standings) than people expected. But people have got comfortable … This club hasn't proven anything yet," he added.

On the plus side for Toronto, Italian star Federico Bernardeschi and defender Nicksoen Gomis return from suspension Wednesday. Forward Prince Owusu, who was restricted to a 27-minute cameo on the weekend due to a calf issue, is expected to see more minutes.

But wingback Tyrese Spicer, who missed the Chicago game with a back issue, remains out.

Thanks to goals in the 81st and 91st minute, Nashville defeated a depleted Toronto 2-0 when they met May 15 at Geodis Park. Toronto was missing Herdman and nine players, five of whom like Herdman were suspended in the wake of a post-game melee with New York City FC.

Despite the win, Nashville fired longtime coach Gary Smith the next day, naming player development coach Rumba Munthali as interim coach. Born in Zambia, Munthali was raised in Brampton, Ont., and played for the Toronto Lynx.

He expects a pushback from Toronto on Wednesday.

"It's always tough to go and play teams that had a negative result or a result that they didn't want," Munthali said. "Their coach voiced his opinion about that game so I expect them to be full of energy and concentrated on making sure that they try to get a positive result against us

"So I think it will be playing Toronto at a very difficult time … They have a lot of attacking pieces that are very dangerous so if we're not cautious and concerned about what we're doing, then we'll have some issues."

Both teams will be feeling the heat. The forecast calls for 28 Celsius feeling like 37 C Wednesday evening with a 20 per cent chance of precipitation.

Nashville has lost just one of five games (1-1-3) since the May win over Toronto and has posted shutouts in three of its last four outings. Nashville has conceded the fewest goals (five) in MLS since May 1.

Nashville 'keeper Joe Willis has four shutouts in his last six starts, upping his career total to 64.

"That side of it's good," said Nashville defender Daniel Lovitz, referencing his team's defensive performance recently.

"It's up to us to figure out how to be a little more creative and put the ball in the back of the net," added the former TFC player. "I think that's a group effort."

Both teams are missing players.

Toronto captain/midfielder Jonathan Osorio and fullback/wingback Richie Laryea (Canada) and goalkeeper Sean Johnson (U.S.) are at Copa America. Defender Shane O'Neill and midfielder Brandon Servania are long-term injury absentees.

Nashville winger Jacob Shaffelburg, a former TFC player, is also with Canada while midfielder Aníbal Godoy is with Panama and defender Shaq Moore with the U.S. Canadian defender Lukas MacNaughton, another former TFC player, is out with an ankle injury.

Nashville's injury list also includes Julian Gaines and Randall Leal.