As Javier Perez pointed out post-match on Saturday, the best place to find answers for Toronto FC will be out on the pitch.
Preparations began immediately following the final whistle of the 2-0 loss away to FC Cincinnati this past weekend ahead of the Tuesday night visit of Inter Miami CF to BMO Field.
It offers a chance for the club to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and go again.
“[There’s] no point to beat up a team that is already down,” said Perez of the team’s situation at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, riding a five-match losing streak. “I believe that everybody wants to do a good job, only we can get out of this situation, so it's more about how you can give support and build the confidence of the players.”
“The games are coming very fast. Tomorrow is a game, then the weekend we have another game; next week we have the cup game, so we need to get these guys back very quickly into condition to win games,” he continued. “What you try to do basically is give them the support they need in order to get the performance and, ultimately, get the result, the points.”
The familiar pattern of league games coming in triplets resumes: Cincinnati, Miami, then the visit of Nashville SC on the weekend. Then a week before a Saturday away trip to the Colorado Rapids, the following Wednesday home to Cincinnati, then the visit of the Chicago Fire the following weekend.
Throw in the added wrinkle of a Canadian Championship match against York United FC at BMO Field on September 22 and this month will be just as hectic as any this season.
When times are tough, it’s easy to get down.
It’s easy to point fingers and throw in the towel. But one of the beauties of football, of life, is there is always the next game, there is always tomorrow. The clock resets. The scoreboard reads 0-0. It is a world of possibilities.
What came before only matters if one lets it.
“In this situation, you have to stay as positive as possible, with how difficult it’s been,” said Richie Laryea. “I'm just trying to stay positive and trying to help everyone. All of us are used to the culture of this club and how we've won games: it doesn't feel good to be in the state that we're in right now.”
“So we're trying a lot of very different things and hoping it helps us and moves us in a better direction,” he continued. “That where we're at right now. We have to just take these next 11 games and get something out of them – for us and for the fans.”
Back at home, back to the roots, eyeing a better start than in the last contest with Phil Neville’s Miami side, who won 3-1 on August 21 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale.
“We were very flat-footed that game. We know we can't do that come tomorrow when we go and play against them,” reminded Laryea. “If we fix that we'll be able to compete a lot better than we did down in Miami, just starting off on the right foot.”
Perez made a dual promise for what fans can expect to see from TFC, the first was: “A team that are going to give everything on the field.”
“That's from the heart point of view and from the tactical part , a game where we're going to try to hold a little bit more of the ball than in the past game. We are going to be a little bit more faithful with our identity and try to move the ball faster and get the ball into the final third and create goal-scoring opportunities,” he explained. “But more than anything it’s going to be a team that is going to try to have the ball, try to have the control of the game.”
Miami comes to town trending in the opposite direction: winners of their last two matches, unbeaten in five, two points adrift of the final playoff berth fighting for the chance to compete for the MLS Cup.
In the three matches since the last meeting between these two, Miami have drawn 0-0 in a Florida derby at Orlando City SC and beaten both Cincinnati and the Columbus Crew by 1-0 scorelines, the first away and the second at home.
Quite the turnaround for a team that struggled through the opening months of the campaign.
“They started really badly, even worse than us, then they found their way back,” observed Perez. “They changed the dynamic and now this is one of the strongest teams in the East.”
Gonzalo Higuain has led the way with nine goals on the year – he scored what proved to be the game-winner on the weekend against Columbus. Rodolfo Pizarro has found his footing, as his two goals in the last meeting can attest. And Neville has surrounded those two with a side that has been difficult to break down – Miami have not allowed a goal in 298 minutes of regulation time and that was the own-goal netted by Kieran Gibbs against Toronto.
“They have a very strong identity with a 5-2-3,” laid out Perez. “The three players up front, Pizarro gives them something different – we saw that in the game we played in Miami. But even more important is the five at the back, they are very solid. Gregore dictates the tempo, [Blaise] Matuidi is a player that complements [him], these two in the middle have a lot of presence. And altogether it makes a very stable side, especially defensively.”