TFC Is Fine, Trust Me
Just one year after Toronto FC won the MLS cup, Canadian Championship and had the best regular season in MLS history they are in a spot to potentially not even make the playoffs. There were such high expectations for this team that anything other than a top three finish in the conference would be considered a disappointment. This season would be deemed a disappointment. If you were to have told me before the season that TFC would be 9 points out of a playoff spot with a record of 7 wins, 14 losses and 6 draws at this point in the season; I would have called your prediction outrageous, insane and/or ludicrous.
Unfortunately for TFC fans, that is the reality. They started the season losing four of their first five games and winning only three of their first 10. So how does a team with so much talent who just set an MLS record for points and championship fall off so much? Well, there’s three reasons.
1. They’re Playing On Tired Legs
TFC making it to the finals can hardly be described as a “bad thing” but it does add games to their schedule. Getting to the finals had TFC playing five more games after the regular season and because they won, they had to participate in the CONCACAF tournament in which they made it to the finals and played eight more games. That’s a total of 13 more games than most teams had to play. In other words, they played at least 1,170 minutes more.
That’s a lot of extra time training and practicing not to mention the high-pressure atmosphere of playoff games and tournaments tiring the players out physically and mentally. After playing so many intense games, the regular season will feel much less important to the team. You can see this happening with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA. They’ve been so good for so long, that the regular season seems boring to them. This is probably the mind state of TFC.
On top of that, the extra minutes will straight up make these guys tired and fatigued. Playing full games at maximum effort becomes tougher as the season goes on and will contribute to the next reason:
1. Injurie Issues
TFC has been hit by the injury bug this season and it doesn’t seem to want to go away. This has been a season where, if one player gets injured, five others do too. Throughout the year, they’ve seen more than 10 players sit out due to injury and it’s shown. As the team’s first 10 games indicate, the beginning of the season was their toughest stretch in terms of injuries.
Some of the notable players who have suffered injuries are:
Drew Moor who suffered a quad tear back in May and was expected to miss 2-3 months of the season. During his road to recovery back to the pitch, he suffered another injury; this time in his calf which set him back some more. This is extra unfortunate because Moor has been notoriously healthy throughout his time in the league. He has played a total of 387 games (364 regular season and 23 playoff) since 2005. He returned on August 12thagainst New York but the damage has been done. During his time out of the lineup, TFC gave up 41 goals which is close to a league worst.
Justin Morrowwho was also injured early on this season in March during the CONCACAF quarter finals. He suffered a calf tear which held him out of action until mid June. He has shown what TFC was missing during that long period by putting up three assists and one goal since his return.
Chris Mavinga who’s season has been riddled with injury. He missed five games from April 20th-May 11th, nine games from May 27th– July 19th, last game against Montreal and is expected to miss another game this week against Portland.
Nick Hagglundwho missed 12 games when he was sidelined for over a month from March 18th– May 22nddue to a hamstring strain. He’s no stranger to injury though as he also missed a lot of time last year because of a torn MCL.
Jozy Altidoreis one of the better players to miss time during this season because of injuries. He wasn’t available for three games early in the season in a one month stretch due to some muscle issues but suffered a major blow to his season more recently, missing 11 games because of a foot surgery he got in early May.
With the increased talent around the MLS, you need all forces in order to keep up and unfortunately that wasn’t the case for TFC early on. The lack of health TFC has had to put up with will lead into my next reason:
3. Tough Coaching Decisions
With all of these injuries to key players and fatigue that has set in throughout the season, TFC’s coaches have had to make adjustments to suit the team in front of them. This isn’t only an issue for the coaches to deal with but the players as well. These guys are playing more minutes and some are even playing at different positions. Earlier this season when Moor was taken out of a game because of injury, midfielder Michael Bradley stepped in and took over the Centre-back position; with success, I must add. But still, your midfielder shouldn’t have to be play Centre-back no matter how good he plays it.
Drew Moor acknowledged the captains fine effort on Twitter:
Unfortunately, this type of thing is something that TFC players and coaches have been dealing with all season. Some of the guys are coming back into the mix now and the coaching staff has done a good job inserting them back into the game plan.
There’s No Need To Be Worried
No matter how bad the season has been, you can look back to last season and see that TFC is in a good position. They were the best team the MLS has ever seen. Since the players have been slowly coming back from injuries, the team has looked in good form losing only three of their past 12 games. In this span, TFC claimed the Canadian Championship again which qualifies them to play in the CONCACAF tournament for a second consecutive season.
With a win against the Impact on August 25th, TFC moved to only six points behind the sixth-place Montreal in the playoff standings. They didn’t capitalize on their opportunity to the fullest though as they’ve lost two in a row to Portland and LA. TFC does have a game in hand on the Impact making their push into playoff contention that much more possible.
If TFC can find a way to make it into the MLS playoffs and manage to stay healthy, I truly believe they have a pretty good chance at being a contender for the championship once again. It won’t be easy but with good fortune and health, I wouldn’t put it past this extremely gifted squad.
Whether it’s an end of the season push for the playoffs or next season all together, TFC will come back and fall into form once again. Once they do so, as we’ve seen before, not much will be able to stop them from terrorizing the league.
TFC fans, you shouldn’t be worried this team. The rest of the MLS on the other hand, you have to be.