TORONTO – Eric Avila has taken full advantage of his return to the lineup.
The 24-year-old midfielder scored a goal, hit a post and took the foul to earn a penalty kick that Torsten Frings flubbed in Toronto FC’s gut-wrenching, stoppage-time 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
It was Avila’s second start in a row and in both games he has been prominent.
GOAL: Avila shocks Rio Tinto with equalizer
But personal accomplishments were the least of his thoughts after the last-minute loss at Rio Tinto Stadium, Toronto’s seventh in a row to equal the 1999 Kansas City Wizards for the worst start in league history.
“It kills us, it really does,” Avila said. “We worked hard for 93 minutes and then that happens. At times, you say it’s football. Other times, you say it’s kind of luck. But those are the small things we do need to fix.
“It’s devastating because we played well, especially here at Salt Lake. They’re a great team at home and for us to come out and score two goals here, it’s an improvement. But still we can’t let that happen.”
Avila was cup-tied to FC Dallas, so he watched as TFC beat the LA Galaxy to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals, which the Reds lost to Santos Laguna. It remains their only win of the year in any competition.
Over the past three weeks, though, the Reds have come close, and Avila has been at the heart of it. They've lost 3-2 in consecutive games, tripling their offensive output in the process. Against Salt Lake, he led a second-half surge in which Toronto twice tied the game.
“In the first half, we were doing well containing them, in the second half we wanted to push,” he said. “Even though we were one goal down we just wanted to push at them and keep going.”
His goal early in the second half tied the game 1-1. He eluded Jamison Olave before finishing off the play with a shot to the lower right corner, a Goal of the Week nominee.
“The second half we came out nice,” he said. “The movement of the ball was nice and I got open at the top of the box. I missed the first goal in the first half, so I wanted to just come up and help out.”
Help he did, but it wasn’t nearly enough – and now there’s no time for the Reds to dwell on the loss. They visit the Montreal Impact for the opening game of the Amway Canadian Championship on Wednesday (8 pm ET, Sportsnet).
“We’re just taking it day by day,” Avila said. “We’re taking it game by game. We still need to fix ourselves. We’re still trying to stay positive.”