“After 90 minutes like that, there's nothing to say,” said Michael Bradley, opening his post-match press conference. “We let ourselves down. We let our fans down. We let everybody who follows us down. Not even close to good enough, not who we are, and I'm sorry. When you play like that, when you lose like that, words mean nothing afterwards.”
“So over the course of the next few days and the next few weeks, we'll have our chance to show a real reaction, but there's nothing to say that has any value after a game like that,” he continued. “You look at yourself, you look at first and foremost what you can do and what you have to do to help this, that's the main thing.”
“Yeah, one of my worst days at the club for sure,” Bradley added. “We're not in a good way right now and it's nobody's fault but ours, the players. People want to look around and point fingers and say it's Chris [Armas]'s fault, he's not done a good enough job. Bullsh*t.”
“The players, we have to look at ourselves and find more. I've not done a good enough job as captain. I've not been a good enough leader. I've not been a good enough player. People should look at the guys on the field. It's too easy, too convenient, to look at everything else,” he closed. “We're going to work to put this right, but obviously right now, it couldn't be a worse moment. There's no two ways about it.”
D.C. United won 7-1 on the night – the worst MLS defeat in club history.
“There's no breakdown of the performance. I don't have those words for you there,” replied Armas. “You have a goal one minute in, we're down 2-0 after eight minutes, we're down 3-0 on two shots after 20 minutes... It's hard to come back in games when you're on the road and you give up goals early. It's exactly not what we needed. Not much I can say.”
That early fragility has been a constant thorn, putting TFC behind before the game has even really begun – they were the seventh and eighth goals the club has conceded in the opening 15 minutes of matches this season.
“We're in a moment right now where we're so unstable,” explained Bradley. “And so it's just the first moment where things don't go how we hoped or how we expected, the first time they get into our end, the first time a ball bounces loose. When you're in a flow and when you're playing well there's confidence and there's an ease and a stability in the team which helps you navigate all different parts of the game and right now we don't have that, at all.”
“That hurts us,” he continued. “Our ability to deal with certain situations, to deal with little advantages that the other team has, it's not what it should be. We’ve talked a bunch of times about it, having a good start to the game, what we want that to look like, but when you're in a moment like this, just because you talk about it, it doesn't guarantee you anything, and then when you get on the field and now you have to deal with that... Yeah, it's not too easy.”
“The starts to games are one of a bunch of things that we've got to really look at and get right,” Bradley added. “Because we're killing ourselves at the beginning of games.”
There are no easy answers at times like these. Heads drop.
“You lose by that margin, it's demoralizing. That's part of it,” said Armas. “These guys have been through a lot and it's hard to stay in it. It's human nature in moments to just give in.”
But the schedule rolls on: Toronto will travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts midweek for a match against the New England Revolution, who lead the Eastern Conference.
“We have to look at ourselves,” stressed Bradley. “And not just tonight – tonight is the latest, most recent, 90 minutes, but it's not been the only 90 minutes that we've let get away from us this year.”
“It's frustrating. Beyond frustrating,” he continued. “There aren't any words after a game like that, honestly. I'm here because when you lose a game like that, you can't hide, especially when you are captain. You can't just walk on to the bus and put your headphones on and think that it's all just going to go away.”
“I accept all the responsibility that comes with every part of being captain of a club like this. The good moments, the bad moments, and the really bad moments. I've got no answers right now. There's nothing I can say to anybody that's going to make anyone feel better, that's going to put anything right in this moment. We'll have our chance over the next few days, the next few weeks to really respond.”
Said Armas: “In those moments when you're down, there's not a lot of answers.”
“You're not moving pieces around, ‘hey, go a little bit higher here,’ that's not the solution,” he continued. “I don't think there's a coach out there that understands how to push the magical button.”
“I see guys in a tough moment. And there's only one way: you have to understand exactly where you're at, why you're there, what role can you play. Stick together, carry your weight, understand that everyone plays a role here,” Armas simplified. “When you're a last place team, you have to understand exactly why you're there and take steps.”
“I see what training looks like every day. I see a team that's together and comes with high expectations, there's motivation to step on a field. And then you take some punches and it's hard to recover. You get knocked down, it becomes harder to get up. That's what it is. It's human nature,” he expanded. “You can read into it – is he quitting on the coach? I see no reason why anyone around here would quit when you see every day what goes on.”
“I'm the right person to fix things, to get this thing going,” Armas closed. “This group needs me and I need them. Together we are going to get out of this.”
23 games remain.
“69 points on the board still,” calculated Bradley. “We have good players. We have a good coach. We have a group that has gone on plenty of runs over the last few years where you pick up a lot of points – we can't even think about that right now. We've got to take things one game at a time and stabilize ourselves and get ourselves back going in a good way and take things one game at a time and let things build from there.”
“I don't need to tell you the history of the league and the number of teams that have been able to put things together and go on a really good run,” he reminded. “We certainly can't take that for granted, that's for sure. But we're going to keep going and try to get things going in a real way.”