Toronto FC was back in training on Tuesday ahead of its home game against the Portland Timbers this weekend.
Here are some news and notes from today’s practice.
THE LETDOWN IN D.C.
Toronto is unbeaten in its last five games, and remains in first place in Major League Soccer with a 12-3-8 record. But the Reds are coming off a disappointing 1-1 draw away to last-place D.C. United on Saturday. Down 1-0 at halftime, Toronto levelled the score in the 52nd minute through an own goal.
The result was even more of a letdown when you consider the hosts had to play with only 10 men for the entire second half after Lloyd Sam was sent off in the 44th minute for a trash tackle on Toronto defender Chris Mavinga.
Looking back on it, TFC coach Greg Vanney gave credit to D.C. for the way it defended, but also bemoaned his team’s ability to break down its opponents.
“Between the timing of our moves and the quality of our final ball, we weren’t dangerous enough and we didn’t finish [in front of goal] enough,” Vanney told reporters after Tuesday’s practice.
“We were able to get ourselves back into [the game] at 1-1, but we needed to create a few more clear-cut chances and be a little bit more dangerous. We were patient in our setup but sometimes that just led to [D.C.] having more time to organize their defending.”
CHICAGO CLOSES THE GAP ON TORONTO
The draw in D.C. hurt TFC in more ways than one, as the Chicago Fire earned a 4-1 win at home over the New England Revolution. That victory allowed the Fire to close the gap on first-place TFC to three points.
Chicago has a game in hand on Toronto and will host the Reds on Aug. 19 in a huge match that could have big implications on the race for the Supporters’ Shield, the award given to the team which finishes the regular season in first place.
It’s been an amazing turnaround for Chicago, which finished the 2016 MLS campaign in last place. The off-season additions of German star Bastian Schweinsteiger and MLS veteran Dax McCarty have no doubt helped the Fire, as has the signing of Hungary international forward Nemanja Nikolić, who ranks second in league scoring with 16 goals.
An unbeaten home record – 10 wins and one draw – has also helped keep the Fire within reach of the Eastern Conference-leading TFC.
“You can’t discount the quality of their group and that they are capable of putting the ball in the back of the net, and they’ve been a very good team at home,” Vanney said.
“We have to keep that in consideration because we’re going there in a couple of weeks, so it makes for an interesting matchup. We’ll focus on that after we pass this Portland game, because it’s an important one for us.”
BEITASHOUR COULD BE BACK FOR CHICAGO
Right fullback Steven Beitashour is still on the sidelines, although he is on the mend and close to returning from a lengthy injury layoff. Beitashour collided with Montreal Impact defender Kyle Fisher in the Canadian Championship final on June 27, and underwent surgery on his pancreas.
Beitashour has been out of action ever since, but he’s starting to run and be incorporated more into the team’s training sessions. Vanney revealed there is an outside chance he could be ready to play in the Chicago game.
“We’re optimistic [he’ll return within] a couple of weeks, [a] possibility for Chicago. That would be an outside possibility, but then soon thereafter we think he’ll be ready to play,” Vanney stated.
Beitashour, 30, has been a mainstay for TFC ever since coming over in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps prior to the 2016 season, starting in 42 regular-season games and six playoff matches.
Defender Oyvind Alseth suffered a laceration to his foot during the 4-0 win over NYCFC at home on July 30. As a result, he sat out the game against D.C United. Vanney said Alseth should be available to play Saturday versus Portland, depending on how the foot heals this week.
Midfielder Benoit Cheyrou remains out long term with a calf tear. The Frenchman suffered the injury during a 1-1 draw at home against the Colorado Rapids on July 22 and was originally ruled out for at least eight weeks. There’s no update on his condition.
LOOKING AHEAD TO PORTLAND
Saturday’s match at BMO Field is the only meeting this campaign between Toronto and Portland.
While TFC (44 points) is riding high in first place in MLS, Portland sits fifth in the Western Conference with a 9-8-7 record and 34 points.
The Timbers concede a lot of goals, with 39 against. But they also have a potent attack, and have scored 42 times, the same amount of goals that Toronto’s high-powered offence has registered this campaign. In Nigerian Fanendo Adi, Portland also has one of the most dangerous forwards in MLS – he has 10 goals and three assists in 22 starts in 2017.
“The three [attacking midfielders] underneath Adi are incredibly mobile and change places, and will end up in different areas of the field, and try to cause a lot of problems,” Vanney said.
The Timbers won the lone contest last season, 2-1 at home on May 1. Will Johnson scored for TFC in a losing effort.