Humbling loss leaves Toronto FC looking for answers

Aron Winter

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Toronto FC began the second half of the season the way they began the season in March: with a two-goal loss on the road.

And after a 3-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday extended their winless streak to nine MLS games (10 in all competitions), the Reds are hoping the second half of the season doesn’t play out like the first.

“I was missing a little bit in this game,” TFC head coach Aron Winter said. “I was missing the reaction after they scored the goals. To fight for it … that was missing a little bit.”

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Toronto’s next chance to get the season on the right track comes Wednesday in league play at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps, who beat them 4-2 in the season opener. The two teams will then decide the Nutrilite Canadian Championship at BMO Field on July 2.

“Both [games] are equally important, especially because we need results in the season,” midfielder Gianluca Zavarise said. “We’re struggling right now. We need to get some positive results going forward. Obviously the Canadian Cup, we need to win that. We need to advance and get something and stay positive.”

Before TFC hope to get anything that looks like a playoff run going, they must get some injured players back, and some help on the transfer market.

The return of target man Alan Gordon — who has played one-and-half MLS games since April 30 because of a groin injury — cannot come soon enough. TFC’s attack without Gordon on Saturday was disorganized and tentative.

“Today it looked like we were a little bit afraid and I don’t know why,” Winter said.

There was an immediate spurt of energy when Nick Soolsma replaced Dan Gargan, a defender playing as a midfielder in this match, in the 66th and picked up an assist on the consolation goal by Maicon Santos within the minute.

But Gordon’s leadership, size and physical play have been missed. And at the back, 18-year-old Doneil Henry drew some ire from his coach for being “too late” on plays that led to all three of RSL’s goal. Henry was forced into a starting role at center when Nana Attakora suffered a strained quadriceps late in the scoreless draw against Sporting KC on June 4.

Besides Attakora and Gordon, also among the missing for Saturday’s match because of injury were Julian de Guzman, Tony Tchani, Jacob Peterson and Dicoy Williams.

“It makes it difficult,” Winter said. “Because if you’ve got everybody fit then you should get another result and we should also get more points. Even when it is, rebuilding I want to win because I’m a bad loser.”