TORONTO – Down, but not out. Not yet.
Toronto FC may have been eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League after Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake, but players and coaches alike still believe they've got a shot at salvaging their season and making the MLS playoffs.
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Teetering on the brink of playoff elimination after last Saturday’s 3-2 home loss to San Jose, the team is upbeat about heading into the pressure-cooker atmosphere of Qwest Field on Saturday afternoon to face the Sounders in a must-win game for both clubs.
“Seattle is certainly a difficult place to play, so we will need to regroup and focus on getting a result from the Sounders," said interim head coach Nick Dasovic after Tuesday's match. "We are looking forward to the challenge."
It’s an uphill battle for the Reds boss and his charges, who are vying for a spot in the postseason with four other teams and just three games remaining. Toronto trail the leaders for the final three spots – Seattle, Colorado and San Jose – and would also need to leapfrog playoff hopefuls Kansas City, who have 33 points.
The Reds have 31 points and would seem to have the odds stacked against them. But their opponents on Tuesday night are the shining example of why the impossible is always possible.
“I wouldn’t count [Toronto] out of the playoff race," said RSL head coach Kreis. "Definitely not. You are asking the wrong guy with that question. A year ago, people were saying we were eliminated from the race.”
That analogy isn't lost on TFC players. Captain Dwayne De Rosario knows Saturday is literally a must-win situation – a loss would almost certainly be the end for the Reds. But he also believes that if Salt Lake can do it, so can Toronto.
“It’s definitely going to be a hostile environment," said De Rosario, who had a goal and an assist in TFC's 2-0 win over Seattle in April. "Their fans are going to come out in full force to support them.
"But never say never. Our opponents tonight started out at the bottom of the league last season and ended up winning the whole thing."
The Reds put an end to a seven-game losing streak on Sept. 18, with De Rosario scoring both goals in a 2-1 road win in Houston, Toronto's second road victory all season.
Since then, there was a positive 0-0 Champions League draw against Cruz Azul in Mexico City last week before last Saturday’s discouraging home loss to the playoff-hungry Earthquakes. Toronto have shown they can get up for important games. Now, there are no excuses in Seattle.
“The guys are pretty psyched up for this match," said midfielder Julian de Guzman, "and we need to get out of there with a win."