"90th-minute jitters" nearly cost Toronto again vs. Impact

TORONTO – The same old script nearly played out once again in Toronto FC's final home game of a dismal season.

But when Marco Di Vaio missed a half-volley on the last scoring chance of Saturday afternoon's match, the Reds avoided a fate that has become a symbol of their season, giving up a costly late goal, and they came away with a 0-0 draw with the Montreal Impact

“The thing is when the ball got to Di Vaio on the volley I thought because of his quality it was going to be curtains for us,” Toronto head coach Paul Mariner told reporters after the match.

It wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Montreal’s late-game siege had been rewarded with a goal. In 10 previous league games this season the Reds had conceded a goal in the final 10 minutes which cost them a total of 14 points.

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“There’s something about that last 10 minutes, we need to get way better,” midfielder Terry Dunfield told MLSsoccer.com. “We lost our shape and Montreal were able to pick holes in the team especially down the flanks and in the end we were lucky not to be punished.”

“We do put the pressure on ourselves, I guess you can say, but we stuck it out and got a nice little point,” said goalkeeper Freddy Hall who made late saves on Collen Warner and Justin Mapp.

Hall also was quick to praise defender Richard Eckersley’s  block on another chance by Di Vaio. “It was a great block, the class player he is he’s capable of doing stuff like that,” the 'keeper said.

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Mariner feels that some of the adversity the team has faced this season, including the game-changing late goals, have sapped some confidence from the younger players.

“What that does to young players is it chips away at their confidence,” he said. “Their confidence is at a low ebb. We try our level best to keep it bright, keep it jolly, but it just chips away. You saw again at the end of the game today -- the 90th-minute jitters.”

This time they survived the jitters and earned their first league shutout since July 14.

Larry Millson covers Toronto FC for MLSsoccer.com.