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Story of Toronto FC's 2012 season? Conceding late goals

TORONTO – The later it gets, the leakier it gets in Toronto.

Late goals have frustrated TFC in 2012, as they have conceded 12 times after the 80th minute this year. Ten of them affected the result, costing the Reds 14 points.

“We’re conceding goals in the last 10, 15 minutes, a frighteningly high number of them and that’s making it difficult for us at the moment,” assistant coach Jason Bent told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday.

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Those 14 points would not have put Toronto FC (5-20-7) into the playoffs for the first time in their six-year existence. Nonetheless, conceding late goals is one of many issues that need to be dealt with before the playoffs have a chance at becoming reality.

“It’s not just a problem over this season but it’s been a problem for several seasons with Toronto FC, so I don’t know if it’s a mental thing or what have you,” Bent said. “But we have to correct that at the end of our games and find ways to get over the finish line because we’re losing valuable points. I wouldn’t disagree that psychologically it might be in the back of their heads and we have to find ways to get over it.”

“That’s when you have to probably concentrate the most, the last 10 minutes of the game because you’re obviously tired and it affects your decisions,” defender Richard Eckersley said. “Obviously goals come from mistakes. That’s been our problem this season.”

Of course, it’s not just league games where TFC have leaked late goals. The home loss to Santos Laguna in CONCACAF Champions League play, in which they conceded twice, stands out.

Then there’s the case of striker Eric Hassli, who joined Toronto on July 20 in a trade with Vancouver. That was about a month after he scored a 91st-minute goal against TFC to tie the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship finals, which was eventually won in the second leg by the Reds.

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“When it happens like one or two times, OK,” Hassli said. “But when it happens like every game almost ... we are sometimes weak mentally. We need to stay focused 90, 95, 96 minutes. “You need to be ready to fight for 100 minutes. It’s just an attitude and you need to be strong mentally. I hate to lose a game. I feel bad. I come home and I can be mad for two or three days.”

And he said that perhaps the solution will come with more wins.

“Everybody’s happy when you win the game,” Hassli said. “You build more confidence and you play relaxed on the field.”