TORONTO – At the hands of their most bitter rivals, Toronto FC’s playoff dreams for the 2014 season have come to an end.
A 1-1 draw against the Montreal Impact on Saturday mathematically eliminated Toronto FC from playoff contention with one game remaining in the season. Despite Toronto taking a lead and creating numerous goalscoring chances, Montreal held firm, not allowing the Reds a second goal that might have kept that hope alive, with one eye on the Columbus Crew.
The locker room after the match was visibly down. TFC head coach Greg Vanney said he told his players to soak in this feeling, saying it would be the last time they'd experience it. As always, club captain Steven Caldwell, who has never been one to shy away from the microphones on days like this, was the first to speak to reporters after the match.
“It’s a season that’s obviously disappointing,” Caldwell admitted. “We were in a decent position and we let ourselves down in a number of games this season, certainly in the last 10, 15 games of the season. We just have to be professional about it, look back at the things we did wrong and try to improve as a team. In a season where we’ve won more games than we have in our history, we’re still disappointed.”
“They definitely wanted to end our playoff hopes,” midfielder Jonathan Osorio said about the team that handed them their latest disappointing result. “They came out with a lot of energy, you could kind of feel that.”
For Toronto FC, this was not the ending to the season that the club’s brass had both envisioned and promised to supporters at the start of the year. When Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley were brought in fan expectations rose, as did the club's stature.
This is the eighth year in Toronto’s existence and the eighth year without a playoff appearance. But Vanney says his team is hitting other targets, having come together with a core group of players that he believes will only get better – Osorio echoed that sentiment, too.
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“We understand the fans are impatient now because it’s been a long time since the club started and we’ve never been in the playoffs,” Osorio said. “We have to look at the reality and the reality is we’re still a club making changes. We went up a step from last year and if we can continue building that, pretty soon we will be a team fighting for a championship.
“We definitely do have the players, maybe we’re missing some pieces but I think more it’s about the team being together longer,” Osorio added. “The more we get to practice with each other, the more fluidity we’ll get in our team and the better we will be.”
It’s Toronto FC’s loyal supporters who feel the sting of missing the playoffs, though. To those fans, Caldwell’s message was clear:
“Stick with us,” Caldwell said. “It’s important that they get behind us because they’re so crucial to us."
“There’s been a lot of disappointments in the life and career of a TFC supporter but I’d just like to say that as long as I’m here, I’ll be giving 100 percent and hoping that I can get this team into the playoffs and challenging for major trophies,” Caldwell concluded.