For a team less than a year removed from winning the domestic treble (Canadian Championship, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup), this year’s dramatic downturn has been a shocking turn of events.
With only 15 points from 17 games, the Canadian side will have to somehow regroup and earn at least 30 points through the second half of the season to have a realistic shot at making the MLS Cup Playoffs.
A few MLS teams in the past have managed to turn their season around and make a run in the playoffs. Most memorably for Toronto would be the Seattle Sounders in 2016, who rode a coaching change and the summer addition of Nicolas Lodeiro to a postseason berth and ultimately the MLS Cup, beating TFC at BMO Field.
“We give balls away that we shouldn't, we can't make plays to put out fires, we're a little bit deep in moments. I can't put one finger on [why we are allowing so many goals], there's a lot of different reasons.”
Coach Greg Vanney was just as blunt.
“We've got to be out there competing as a group, we've got to be closer together, and we've got to be in a position to help each other,” he said. “From the start [of the Minnesota match], we weren't.”
Many of TFC’s struggles this season can be explained by the team falling behind early in matches.
“We don't give ourselves the chance at the beginning of games,” Bradley stated, while Vanney admitted that “conceding goals early on has just been a big problem for us this year.”
No one single change is going to fix the Reds, but both coach and player see a way forward. For Vanney, it’s a refocus on tactics. He wants the team to communicate more, close in quicker on defense and keep their shape better to prevent opponents from scoring on counterattacks like Minnesota did.
Bradley is more focused on the mindset within the team. While he says that no one has given up, the team needs to regroup and look forward, taking each game one at a time.
“You can't take 35 points in one game,” he said.
While the Reds still have a chance, Vanney knows that chance is fading fast, particularly if they can’t fix the myriad issues facing their club.
“With each passing game, that window gets a little tighter for us,” he admitted after their loss to Minnesota.
The only positive Bradley saw for this season was that they’re “only halfway done.” He then paused for a moment, looking for the right word, before adding, “For as poor as we've been for 17 games, we have 17 games to go after things and put it right.”
When asked by a reporter if this group of players could turn this season around, Bradley again had a one-word answer: