TORONTO – Having lost one cup final this week in a painful penalty shootout, Toronto FC now sees itself facing 12 more.
That’s how many games left Toronto (6-12-4) has left in the MLS regular season. Bob Bradley’s team currently sits in 13th place in the Eastern Conference — six points and six teams out of the playoffs.
There is no room for margin of error if TFC has any hope of making the post-season.
Toronto flew back immediately after Tuesday’s Canadian Championship final loss in Vancouver, arriving home around 7 a.m. Wednesday. On Thursday, the team took what it could in reviewing the 5-3 penalty shootout setback against the Whitecaps and started looking ahead.
“Now it’s time for us to move on. We’ve got 12 games left,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono. “And we have to treat every one like a final from this point on. We know the importance of each one.”
Toronto returns to action Saturday at the 10th-place New England Revolution (6-7-8).
Some wondered why Bradley took Lorenzo Insigne off with just two minutes remaining in regulation time Tuesday, with a penalty shootout looming. The reason was the Italian star was feeling his calf, an issue that he brought with him from Europe.
“The decision was made that we just couldn’t risk him at that point,” said Bradley.
Insigne is expected to be available Saturday.
Tuesday’s game also saw Toronto defender Shane O’Neill wear protective headgear, like a rugby scrum cap. Bradley said O’Neill has had “more than his share of head injuries” and has worn the headgear in the past.
Bradley did not speak to the media after the Vancouver game. He said he and his players were willing to talk but were told by Canada Soccer that only the winning coach would attend the post-game news conference.
He did speak to a reporter in the mixed zone after the match.
Asked about reports that some of his players did not want to shake hands after the game, Bradley said he and his coaches did go over and congratulate their Vancouver counterparts. Whitecaps coach Vanni Sartini then took centre stage, celebrating the win by rolling on the field and taking his “Vancouver is Home” T-shirt off and waving it over his head.
“In the process, he’s waving his shirt at one point right in front of Oso (Toronto midfielder Jonathan Osorio),” said Bradley. “Oso just missed a penalty in a shootout. And so when he (Sartini) is done celebrating and he then wants to come over and start again, yes, there were guys on our team that in that moment just absolutely didn’t want him over on our side.
“And when I saw that, I know Vanni, and in a simple straight way I said, ‘When you celebrate like that right now, they don’t want you over here.’”
Bradley said Sartini responded something to the effect of “I get it” and moved off.
Bradley noted his players stayed on the field out of respect during the trophy presentation.
“He (Sartini) twisted his words when he made it seem like guys didn’t want to shake hands because they were mad at the loss.”
Toronto midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye has missed the last two games with a lower body injury. Bradley says while the injury “is not a bad one,” he is still questionable for Saturday.
Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg continues to deal with a rib injury while midfielder Noble Okello continues his comeback from a lower body injury.
Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022