Stopping the Rot
Here is the understatement of the year:
The last eight games for Toronto FC have been less than stellar.
Some superlative individual performances from Giovinco aside, the Reds have stumbled through the summer days and nights of July and August with a poor 2-2-4 record and most alarmingly have conceded over half (22 of the 41 conceded to date) of the goals they have let in overall in the 2015 MLS campaign over the past eight matches! Frankly considering that the Reds have been conceding an AVERAGE of 2.75 goals per game since the start of July it’s a bloody miracle that they have been able to secure ANY points at all since Canada Day, let alone the eight they have earned. If you compare the first fifteen games of the season to the last eight the goals against average has roughly DOUBLED from 1.36 over the first fifteen to 2.75 per game over the last eight.
With the recent collapse of whatever defensive ability this club apparently had going over the first half of the season, since July we have seen the points per game earned by the Reds drop from a creditable 1.53 PPG over the first 15 matches to a shabby 1 point per game over the past eight. Overall the points per game earned by Toronto FC to date is averaging 1.35.
Two critical games remain in August, home to struggling Orlando on Saturday and then the improving Impact avec Drogba on the 29th come to town.
With the transfer window now slammed shut the club we have is the club we have for the run in. There will be no one else coming between now and the end of the season to assist this club. What we got is what we got! No new coach. No new players.
And these next two games will go a long way towards not necessarily deciding if TFC will make the playoffs (I for one still think the Reds are pretty close to a certainty to qualify for the post season) but will determine the manner of how they qualify. If the Reds can staunch at least SOME of their defensive bleeding over these next few matches they still have a strong chance of not only qualifying for the post season but of guaranteeing us long suffering supporters at least one home playoff date. If they find a way for this rot to continue and they lose these games to IMMEDIATE rivals then the probability of qualifying 5th or 6th (with no guarantee of a home playoff date!) becomes much more likely.
The SCARIEST part about this run Toronto FC find themselves on is the fact that the immediate rivals that the Reds must compete with for the playoffs are with one exception over the past eight matches played are ALL doing better than TFC are. I don’t count DC United or the Red Bulls here as I think they are pretty close to locking up the top two places in the Eastern conference and securing a bye into the second round of the playoffs.
Below are points per game numbers from TFC’s five immediate rivals for the four playoff spots available since the beginning of July:
Columbus – 1.75
Montreal – 1.38
New England – 1.25
New York City FC – 1.25
Orlando – 0.68
The Crew are 4-2-2, the Revs are 3-1-5, the Impact are 3-2-3, NYCFC are 3-1-4 and Orlando are 1-2-5 respectively over the past eight matches each of them has played. And of course TFC are 2-2-4. Only Orlando has been worse since Canada Day.
If you make the assumption that the two expansion sides will come up short (an assumption I am willing to make!) then it is between TFC, Columbus, New England and Montreal to decide who finishes 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th.
Now I can’t count the times this season I have said to fellow supporters that if ONLY the Reds can find a way to be at least poor at the back – not TERRIBLE – just poor – then their ability to score would be enough to get them over the line. Whether Greg Vanney is the man for that job is of course under serious doubt. Mr. Vanney has been in charge now for 38 league matches for Toronto FC dating back to September of 2014. In that time his club has been able to secure a clean sheet only four times. Trust me on this – I CHECKED. No other MLS club in all of that time has conceded more goals or posted as few clean sheets during that period than Toronto FC has done.
However make no mistake, Greg Vanney is the coach of this club and he will NOT be fired between now and the end of this campaign. Nor do I say that firing him now would be wise. Even in the light of his shambolic defensive record and his to date inability to staunch the bleeding at the back firing him now would do for the end of this campaign what bringing him in at the end of the last campaign did. Absolutely nothing!
Going into the Orlando game the likelihood of significant defensive change is likely to take place. Back up keeper Chris Konopka played mid week for TFC II and the word from training on Friday is that he is likely to get the nod as the starting goalkeeper against Orlando. Joe Bendik has not covered himself in glory over these past few matches – conceding at least one bad goal in each of the last three games – and giving him time on the bench might be the smart play. Kantari is likely to get a seat on the bench too as his dive into the deep end of the MLS pool has not been the success to date that Vanney/Bezbatchenko hoped it would be. Likely young Zavaleta and recent acquisition Josh Williams (who was probably the best Red last week in New Jersey) will start as centrebacks with Morgan and Morrow as fullbacks.
Orlando is beatable. Now it’s time for Toronto FC to get serious and stop the rot.