TFC notebook: Very slim margin of error for MLS champs

Sebastian-Giovinco

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco (centre). (Chris Young/CP)

Toronto FC was back in training on Tuesday ahead of its home game against the Montreal Impact this weekend.

Here are some news and notes from the day’s practice.

VERY SLIM MARGIN OF ERROR

Make no mistake, TFC is up against it.

Montreal (10-13-3) currently holds down the sixth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference, and sits three spots and nine points above Toronto (6-12-6) in the standings, although the Reds do have two games in hand.

TFC did itself few favours last Saturday when it was only able to earn a 1-1 draw away to the San Jose Earthquakes, the last-place team in MLS.

Failing to earn three points against San Jose has put even more pressure on TFC ahead of this weekend. With only 10 games left in the season, the margin of error is slim – very slim – for the Reds, so Saturday’s showdown at BMO Field could be a make-or-break contest when it comes to Toronto’s playoff destiny.

“I don’t think we need to win 10 games to get into the playoffs but I still think the minimum number is probably seven that we have to win. There’s your margin, right there. It’s slim. Very slim,” coach Greg Vanney conceded.

JANSON SOLID IN HIS TFC DEBUT

Acquired by TFC in the first week of August, Lucas Janson made his MLS debut in San Jose, starting for the Reds and scoring the side’s lone goal in the 59th minute off a setup from Sebastian Giovinco and Gregory van der Wiel.

Janson, who turned 24 last week, put in a man-of-the-match performance for Toronto, as he effectively linked up in the attack with midfielders Marky Delgado and Jonathan Osorio before being subbed out in the 66th minute.

Vanney was pleased with what he saw from the Argentine.

“I know he feels like he’s got more he can do … [but] I thought he stepped in and did a very solid job. You can see he’s a very smart player, he’s technically clean, he understands how to move himself around the field, and he obviously got himself into good goal scoring positions,” Vanney offered.

“He was trying to link up with players, and I thought that was all a positive start. I think it can only get better with time.”

Janson only had one proper training session with TFC before Saturday’s game.

“I’m very happened with how everything turned out,” Janson said on Tuesday through a translator.

Janson is on loan with TFC for the remainder of this season from Tigre of Argentina’s first division, but he hopes the deal can become permanent.

“My aspirations are to stay here,” Janson admitted.

Check back with Sporsnet.ca on Wednesday for my full-length story on Lucas Janson.

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INJURY UPDATES

Brazilian fullback Auro Jr. remains sidelined with a hamstring injury. He is not training with the team at the moment, and though there is no set timeline, Vanney believes Auro is still several weeks away from returning.

Giovinco didn’t start the game in San Jose – he came on as a substitute in the 58th minute with the game tied at 0-0 – because of a tender groin. The Italian had been dealing with the injury before last Wednesday’s home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Vanney decided to bring Giovinco to San Jose after talking to the Italian.

“The game was important and we were there to win. We felt like if we could limit his exposure and he doesn’t get to a point where he’s fatigued that he’d be fine. If we felt like it was a big risk, we would have left him behind. He wanted to be there,” Vanney explained.

TFC’s coach added that he’s hopeful that Giovinco should be able to play Saturday against Montreal.

OFFERS FOR ALTIDORE?

ESPN.com reported last week that TFC forward Jozy Altidore was drawing interest from French and Italian league clubs, and that he could soon be headed back to Europe.

While the Italian summer transfer window has since closed, the French league transfer window remains open until the end of August, so there’s still time for a deal to go through.

But it doesn’t sound like Altidore is going anywhere.

“I’ve heard nothing from [TFC management] that any other club in the world has reached out to us with an offer or anything,” Vanney stated.

“I’m not the least bit surprised that clubs around the world are interested in Jozy, but to be interested in and to actually approach us and make us an offer is another step.”

Vanney later added: “I want Jozy here… so for me it’s not even a discussion.”

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LOOKING AHEAD TO MONTREAL

Saturday’s game at BMO Field between TFC and the Impact is the second meeting of the campaign between the Canadian rivals — TFC suffered a 1-0 road loss on March 17. They’ll meet for the final time in Montreal on Oct. 21 in the second-last week of the regular season.

“This game is a little more emotional than just another game. Everybody always checks off this game when you look at your schedule [at the start of the season],” Vanney said.

Aside from the heated rivalry between them, Saturday’s game is also critically important for two sides fighting for their playoff lives.

“Your form to everything you’re playing for is set up in these last 10 games. For us, they’re even more so because it’s the only way we’re going to get into the playoffs, is to hit an incredible form and run through this final stretch,” Vanney stated.

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