Sitting on 16 points, Toronto – based on Montreal’s 6th-place pace and recent precedent – will likely need 45 points to make the playoffs, or 1.8 points per game from their remaining 15 games. Eight teams in the last 10 years have had a full season equal to or greater than 1.8 ppg, one of those elite teams being 2017 TFC (2.03 PPG).
As I see it, there are three questions for Toronto FC to address:
- Do they have to hit the Panic Button to salvage the 2018 season?
- What forms could the Panic Button take?
- Is it worth it for the long-term health of the club?
Charlie Davies recently wrote that Toronto definitely needs to hit the panic button.
There are ways to look at Toronto’s season - injuries, poor performance in front of goal, solid expected goals numbers - and argue patience is more valuable than urgency. When everyone gets healthy, the 2 PPG pace will return. Ergo, keep that Panic Button in the drawer.
That view is brave and intelligent, but perhaps overly optimistic: It’s unclear when Toronto will get their full roster healthy. Jozy Altidore returned to the bench this past weekend, but TFC haven’t released a timeline on Drew Moor or Chris Mavinga in a while, and Victor Vazquez has been touch-and-go all season. TFC might not get fully healthy for a while, and even when they do, who knows how long it will take them to really get to their best.
Toronto’s best XI can go on a tear, but the question is "When?" With every passing week, the target could shift and, at some point, move out of reach.
As such, if TFC hope to get to the playoffs this year, they need to keep the Panic Button within arm’s reach. When time and patience meet, time wins.
With an eye on making the 2018 playoffs, Toronto could consider:
- Changing the tactics
- Signing or trading for someone new
- Benching or transfering a Designated Player
CD9’s article presents the idea that Toronto should change their formation. He suggests that Toronto abandon the 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 that has worked for them in the past and move to a single-striker system: “With the urgent need to shore up the backline, the most logical solution is to add a defender and take off a forward, resulting in a 4-5-1 formation. With his individual brilliance, [Sebastian] Giovinco will get his chances; he just needs to capitalize on them.”
Portland made a similar defensive-minded adjustment and have gone on a 12-game unbeaten run. I’d argue, though, that Portland’s resurgence - and the type of rebirth that Charlie is asking of Toronto - is about mindset as much as tactics. Portland has fully committed to their sit-and-counter style. They grind out wins and seem to relish it. When I watch Toronto, I don’t see the grit or perseverance needed to make the adjustments that Portland has harnessed. Leading us to Option No. 2...
A single midseason signing can reinvigorate a team. Jermaine Jones did it for the Revolution in 2014, Didier Drogba did it for the Impact in 2015, and Nico Lodeiro lifted the Sounders in 2016. They provide an injection of quality and, more so, hope.
The problem facing Toronto FC right now: Jones, Drogba, Lodeiro all signed as Designated Players. TFC are presently already using all three of their DP spots. The player TFC need might not come at a price point they can currently offer. Leading us to Option No. 3 …
Giovinco and Michael Bradley haven’t been their usual selves this year. If either were playing anywhere near their peak ability, Toronto wouldn’t be faced with such tough decisions. But they aren’t, so the club does.