Since joining Major League Soccer in 2007, Toronto FC has been setting all kinds of records. The problem is that they have almost all been of the negative kind.
In their short history the club has seen unparalleled player turnover, a rotating door on the coach’s office, and not a single playoff appearance.
With such a tumultuous and unsuccessful existence one would think that for TFC the only way to go was up. Problem is that when the final whistle sounded on their 2-0 defeat at home against DC United the Reds found a new low. This time it was a low that no other club had ever managed to reach before in the league.
The defeat to DC, the club’s eighth straight to start the campaign, moved them beyond Kansas City for the longest losing streak to begin a season. It was a mark that no one would have expected the club to reach as they came into 2012 with a lot of promise. For fans the CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final win over the LA Galaxy will now feel like a lifetime ago as the team has failed to register a single win in nearly two months now.
On Saturday, TFC were not completely inept and probably could have been up at the half based on the run of play. But DC coach Ben Olsen made the necessary adjustments at half time to take control of the game and Toronto failed to make the right moves to counter.
In the first half, Dwayne De Rosario was marked out of the contest by former teammate Julian de Guzman. Olsen picked up on what was going on and moved De Rosario forward, allowing him to find more space and fill a creative role. It was a move that TFC coach Aron Winter did nothing to answer as his side continued to play the same way they had from the opening kickoff.
The tactics he set the team up with were not bad and they did work effectively for the first 45 minutes. But soccer is like a chess match in many ways in that every move your opponent makes needs to be countered or even better pre-empted.
It seems that Winter just does not have the foresight to make those in-game adjustments that are needed to give his team the edge. His side was on the front foot in the opening half but failed to create any quality chances or get on the scoreboard. Most coaches would then make changes at halftime to exploit the advantages that they had in the first half. Winter instead took off Luis Silva for Joao Plata which added very little to the attack and resulted in Eric Avila moving more central where he was less effective.
When the manager fails to make the needed changes it puts even more pressure on the players to produce something special. That is pressure that this side is not able to deal with right now. They seem to be at a point now where they are so mentally fragile that as soon as one thing goes wrong in the match they get down on themselves and are unable to fight back.
The players’ damaged mental state was on full display in the post game interviews and the frustration was clearly evident on players like Ryan Johnson. They, like the fans, seem to be at the point where they have been searching for answers for so long without success that they just do not know what to do next.
The only thing left to do for now is hope that Toronto can get a result against Montreal in midweek and remain in the Amway Canadian Championship. If they fail to do that the season will be completely lost before the middle of May and when the season is gone you have to question how much longer the coach will last.
David Rowaan is a Toronto-based writer and key contributor to Waking the Red, a blog about Toronto FC and Canadian soccer. Follow Waking the Red on Twitter.