TORONTO — There's a good reason that Toronto FC have struggled to win games this year in league play.
In 27 MLS games this season, Toronto have allowed a league-high 48 goals. Factor in a low goal-scoring total of 25, and the Reds own the worst goal differential in the league at minus-23. The next worse are the Vancouver Whitecaps at minus-16, though they've played two fewer games.
Though Thursday morning's 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League loss to FC Dallas was not a league game, it was against an MLS foe. And though Toronto might lament their missed scoring chances, a glaring defensive mistake yet again put them at the wrong end of a result.
The goal came after a corner kick in first-half stoppage time when Jack Stewart had far too much room to head home a cross from Ugo Ihemelu.
“He was pretty much wide open,” defender Ty Harden said. “I think we just missed an assignment there. I’m not sure who.”
The timing of the goal right before the half couldn’t have been worse. Instead of going into the interval still even, TFC were on the way to their third 1-0 loss to FC Dallas this season. It’s the kind of goal that can drain some of the resolve from a team and leaves them chasing the game.
“It’s a terrible time,” Harden said. “It’s one of the worst times, we knew there was only a couple of minutes left, and we get to halftime at 0-0. I think mentally we’re all aware that it can happen, so we’re trying to fight that by being overly like, ‘Let’s go, let’s make it right,' … but it takes something out of you, that’s for sure.”
There is no doubt Toronto need to score more goals, but preventing them is equally important. They need only look toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings at the Columbus Crew, who have scored only four more goals in MLS than TFC but have allowed just 24.
"We should be tighter than we played on the set pieces," Kocic said. "It’s the end of the first half, you know. We have to stay tighter to the people so they don’t get a space. Even if you push them a little bit it’s going to be hard for him to score.”