Toronto FC’s 3-2 victory over the expansion Minnesota Loons wasn’t pretty or dominating, but it was a win nonetheless for a team that has vaulted into first place in MLS. Credit to the Loons as they fought hard all game and really pushed a tired, mistake-filled TFC team to the brink. But no matter how you slice it, dice or as they say these days “slap chop” it, (thank you latenight infomercials) winning six games in a row is an outstanding feat and sets a team record. The ongoing streak is impressive on it’s own but when you examine it closely you begin to understand just how impressive it is; not to mention how strong and deep Toronto FC really is.
First and foremost the record has come during a grueling part of the schedule where they had back-to-back sets of weekend-Wednesday-weekend games. In total they played those 6 games in just 22 days. Secondly, you have to factor in the difficulties of travel as they went to the west coast and also to Columbus. Finally, the quality of the competition wasn’t the easiest as they faced Orlando City FC which was leading the Eastern Conference at the time; they faced last year’s champions Seattle Sounders; the Crew in Columbus which has never been very kind to the Reds; and they started it off with home victories over Bastian Schweinsteiger’s Chicago Fire and the Western Conference leading Houston Dynamo.
That many games in such a short period of time really tests the strength of your bench as Coach Vanney had 18 different players start games during that stretch. Unfortunately, that still wasn’t enough to prevent some of the difficulties during the Minnesota game as physical and mental fatigue set in. It may have also lead to some injuries on the day as Sebastian Giovinco and Nick Hagglund had to leave the pitch while Jason Hernandez left at halftime due to illness.
“Unfortunate for all the injuries,” said Canadian forward Tosaint Ricketts who scored the 77th minute game winner, “but after six games in such a short stretch, it’s a grind for us and we came up big.”
Shortly after TFC extended their winning streak, Toronto FC II took to BMO Field in front of 3033 passionate fans. The Young Reds are also on a streak of their own, but one they can’t wait to break free of. It has been a difficult and frustrating start to the season for TFC II as the limited results of their first eight games don’t properly reflect their play on the field. That continued on Saturday as they lost 1-0 to Bethlehem Steel despite controlling the play for most of the game.
It is too early to keep an eye on the standings, but it is hard not to miss that TFC II are tied for last in the Eastern Conference. Apart from 2 games early in the season, where they lost by a combined score of 7-1, the Young Reds have been in every game. Even though they have played well enough to win, they just haven’t been able to do so since the season opener in Phoenix.
In the past five games, Toronto FC II have given up only two goals and have three clean sheets yet all they have to show for it are three draws. As good as keeper Angelo Cavalluzzo and the backline have been, the team has not been able to score. The goalless drought has now extended to 510 minutes and you can feel the tension rise with every missed opportunity.
The added pressure makes it even harder to score, similar to a hockey player gripping his stick too tight. The key is to find a way to alleviate some of that weight off the players before their next game. “You just have to stay positive” Coach Jason Bent said, “I was positive with the players in the locker room just trying to keep encouraging them.”
As difficult as things may be, it isn’t as bleak as it seems. It is still early in the season and they are still only a few points out of a playoff spot. Also, out of the eight games they have played, only two have been at home. The good news is that their next game is also at home on Friday, May 19th at the Ontario Soccer Centre in Vaughan with a 5pm start time. The bad news though is it is against a very strong Tampa Bay Rowdies team.
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