Toronto FC: Growing concern about focus late on in games

Quentin Westberg #16 of Toronto FC. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Quentin Westberg #16 of Toronto FC. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

After dropping two points against D.C. United, there is a growing concern about Toronto FC’s penchant for conceding goals in the latter stages of games.

In theory, it doesn’t matter too much where Toronto FC finish in the Eastern Conference standings, as long as they are in a playoff spot. They proved this last season, with impressive wins away to first place New York City FC and reigning champion Atlanta United, to clinch a third MLS Cup final appearance in four seasons.

Further, it is a justifiable argument that this year home field advantage won’t mean as much as a typical season. As such, when TFC conceded an 88th minute equalizer to D.C. United on Saturday night to finish 2-2 it didn’t matter too much, in theory.

Yes it was two dropped points, but the Reds still find themselves well-positioned in third place in the conference just past the halfway point of the regular season. And yet there is still an underlying growing concern about the club, which could prove crucial later on in the season, particularly come playoff time.

Saturday represented the second time TFC had collapsed late on this season against D.C. United. During their previous matchup in Orlando, Toronto gave up a comfortable two-goal lead by allowing late strikes in the 84th minute and then stoppage time, to finish with the same scoreline as Saturday night.

There was a similar collapse on the opening day of the season, as the Reds again gave up a two-goal lead. They allowed San Jose to get back into the game in the 53rd minute and then conceded the equalizer five minutes into stoppage time.

In addition, Toronto FC allowed the Vancouver Whitecaps to score in the 76th minute of their recent matchup in British Columbia. This proved to be the decisive goal, as the home side won 3-2.

All in all, that’s four games where TFC allowed goals in the final 15 minutes, resulting in seven dropped points. As much as not finishing top of the standings might not matter, this growing trend is still cause for concern.

We wrote recently about how much the defence has improved from two seasons ago. However, what head coach Greg Vanney now needs to work on, is improving the focus of the players in the latter stages of games.

Losing late goals during the regular season is one thing. Allowing them once the playoffs start — assuming TFC do qualify — could prove fatal.

As the saying goes, offence wins games and defence wins championships. No matter how much of a cliche this might be, it is still rooted in truth, with a multitude of examples over the years.

For Toronto FC specifically, think back to when they won the treble in 2017, which included their first MLS Cup. All anyone wanted to talk about was an attack including the likes of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, which scored a league-leading 74 goals during the regular season.

More from Toronto FC

However, despite the emphasis on attack, there is no way the Reds set a then MLS record for points in a season, without a solid defence. They finished the regular season allowing just 37 goals, which were second-fewest in MLS.

You could argue we’re being slightly harsh. Consider that TFC have allowed just 1.17 goals per game this season, compared to 1.09 in 2017.

However, as much as the Reds have some potent talent when going forward, they don’t compare to 2017 at this stage, with 20 goals in 12 games. The attack is still trying to find their feet and become more clinical with the array of chances they are creating.

Pending if that happens, this is why it is so vital for the defence — and the club as a whole — to concentrate more in the closing stages of games. If Vanney doesn’t succeed in making the players more mentally disciplined, TFC’s chances of another MLS Cup final appearance might just be wishful thinking.

Next. Top 10 TFC goals of all time. dark

What is your take on Toronto FC repeatedly allowing late goals? Are you concerned, or confident it won’t be a habit which costs them later on this season? Let us know in the comments section below.