Time and games are running out for defending MLS champion Toronto FC
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, September 13, 2018 3:17PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 13, 2018 4:33PM EDT
TORONTO -- Nine points out of the playoff picture with seven games remaining, things are looking bleak for defending MLS champion Toronto FC.
And at least in one quarter, the writing is on the wall.
"Realistically it's not likely we're going to make it, to be honest," said defender Gregory van der Wiel.
"We're not going to give away the last games ... We're going to fight here, give it our everything for the fans, for the people, for ourselves to finish the season well," he added.
The Dutch international, who joined TFC after last season's championship run, got a taste of the good old days Thursday as Toronto (7-14-6) posed for a team photo with the MLS Cup on the BMO Field pitch.
Then it was back to present-day reality and yet another must-win game, this time against the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy (10-10-8) on Saturday.
Asked if this weekend might be a tipping point for his team, Toronto coach Greg Vanney paused before replying: "I think it could be."
"Look we're in a stretch now (where) we have seven games (left) and D.C. (United) picked up more points (Wednesday in a 2-1 win over Minnesota). We've got an eye on what we need to get over the course of this stretch. And not many of those games include losses.
"So this is an important one. Could we get away with a draw? Maybe but it's not something we're thinking about. For us, these home games need to be three points ... If we can play sound, quality soccer -- mistake-free soccer if you will -- then I think we have good chances to win games."
Therein lies the problem, however. Toronto has made a litany of mistakes this season and paid for many of them, whether it be coughing up the ball in a bad place, failing to blunt an attack or make the necessary save.
In 2017, Toronto conceded 37 goals in 34 regular-season games, second only to Sporting Kansas City (29 goals). This year TFC has given up 52 goals in 27 games, which ranks them 17th.
Fullback Justin Morrow blames the defensive lapses on injuries and resulting inconsistency.
"It seems like we're always playing with a different lineup," he said. "We're shuffling around guys and guys aren't playing in their spots all the time. When you play next to the same guy game after game after game, that chemistry between you and the guy next to you really helps and we haven't really seemed to achieve that this year."
Toronto, which languishes in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, 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 Galaxy have their own problems, parting ways with head coach Sigi Schmid this week after a six-game winless streak (0-3-3) that has seen them outscored 18-8. Veteran coach Dominic Kinnear has been named interim coach.
L.A. is eighth in the West, three points out of a playoff spot.