Toronto FC lose margin for error in 1-0 defeat to 10-man Houston Dynamo: "We have to win - that's it"

TORONTO – The goal for Toronto FC has never been clearer. 

With three games left in the season, the club is looking for three big wins. 

That was the message Michael Bradley gave reporters when asked after Toronto’s 1-0 home loss to 10-man Houston Dynamo if the team still believed it would make the playoffs. With a blunt and straightforward “Yup,” Bradley said their belief would never waver while their playoff hunt candle still burns. 

“There’s nine points left on the table,” Bradley said. “If we take nine points, I’m pretty sure we’re going to be right there. I think taking seven points gives you a really good chance. So, until somebody tells me that, mathematically, we’re no longer in it, every single guy in this locker room is still going to be believing.” 

It was, in truth, a tough result for Toronto FC, who looked the better side on the night. TFC head coach Greg Vanney said he was pleased with the performance and his side’s chance creation, from which Toronto FC mustered 26 opportunities over 90 minutes, including a missed penalty and a shot off the post. 

“I asked the guys to lay it out there, to play this game like it was their last game, and I think we did,” Vanney told reporters after the match. “In the end of the day the game comes down to executing in the box; we just didn’t do that today unfortunately.”

Vanney added that Toronto FC lost more than just the three points, though. 

“What we lost today was our margin of error for the rest of the season,” Vanney said. “We now have to go out and we have to win – that’s it. We had a slight margin of error coming into this game for the next four games but now we don’t have that. Now we have to pick up wins on the road in addition to the one home match we have against Montreal.”

“For me, we’ve got to be almost perfect from here on out,” Vanney continued. “If we play like tonight and we finish our chances, maybe that’s enough. But we need to be more clinical when we get our opportunities. We’ve got to be solid the rest of the way."

Toronto now sit one spot out of a playoff berth, three points behind the Columbus Crew for the fifth and final playoff spot. That margin of error Vanney identified referred to the game in hand Toronto FC had on the Crew entering Wednesday’s contest. Now level on games played with the Eastern Conference teams above them, Toronto FC have to quickly turn around and head to New York on Saturday to take on the Red Bulls in what’s become a must-win situation.

“You get to this time of the year and every game is important,” Bradley said. “I thought we came out, played well in all ways; the organization was good, the energy and willingness to get after them was good. The passing, the movement, in terms of creating opportunities, it was all there.”

“[Unfortunately for us], it was just one of those nights.”