TORONTO – And breathe.
With a slight pause at the end of a furious start to the 2018 season, Toronto FC are looking to make the most of the international break.
Through the opening month, TFC have played six matches, four in the Concacaf Champions League and two in MLS. While progression to the semifinals has been achieved, losses in the opening league matches mean that Toronto must endure the lingering taste of defeat for a while longer.
“It’s certainly not ideal to look at the table until we play again,” said Michael Bradley following Toronto's loss in Montreal. “On one hand, you'd like to turn around and play right away. On the other, it’s been a busy start, and we've got to use the time over this next stretch to regroup, mentally, physically, and get ourselves ready for what we hope will be a very busy April.”
With eight players away on international duty – Jonathan Osorio, Tosaint Ricketts, Ashtone Morgan, Jay Chapman, and Liam Fraser with Canada, Marky Delgado and Alex Bono with the US, and Nicolas Hasler with Liechtenstein – Greg Vanney is a little short-handed at the BMO Training Ground this week, but still the work continue apace.
“First and foremost we have to physically stay in form, even pushing some as we approach another important stretch,” said Vanney on Wednesday. “We have enough guys [to] work on some tactical things.”
“With a few of the newer guys, like Auro, Greg van der Wiel, and Ager Aketxe, there are some things we need to continue to push forward. It's important for them and the whole group. There is quite a bit we can accomplish,” continued Vanney. “Not having the whole group around makes some things challenging, but we're going to keep pushing forward and whatever we accomplish without the other guys, we'll get them back on the same page when they arrive.”
TFC returns to action on Friday, March 30 when they host Real Salt Lake at BMO Field in league play. Then Club America comes to town on Tuesday, April 3 for the first leg of their Champions League semifinal series.
That the scheduled home match against D.C. United has been moved to June 13 allows Toronto to focus squarely on the two legs against Club America, the second leg going on Tuesday, April 10.
Jumping from competition to competition midstream is always a difficult ask. The dreaded CCL hangover reared its head last weekend with all three MLS clubs – Toronto, New York Red Bulls, and Seattle Sounders FC – losing after Champions League duties.
“There's definitely a factor,” admitted Vanney. “You go from these high intensity moments, where there is a lot of emotion, a lot of ups and downs, plus travel. There is a lot that goes into it. To then readjusting to the next game.”
“Is it a real thing? I'd like to think no, but I'm sure it is in the grand scheme of things,” continued Vanney. “It's hard to say from a human, mentality standpoint that they don't have a factor, but they for sure do. Every team that was in Concacaf lost. You have to think there is something to it, but for us I like to not use that as an excuse, we need to be able to do these things better on a more consistent basis.”
With a busy April on the cards, not only the resumption of the Champions League, but three MLS matches on the docket as well, including trips to Colorado and Houston and a home date against Chicago, TFC will wisely use this time to rest and refocus on the tasks ahead.
“In one way it's good, you have time to refocus, to work more, for the players injured to come back,” outlined Victor Vazquez. “But also, when get two weeks break and you lost the game before it's difficult because your mind is still thinking on that game.”
“But we have to take it like it is,” added Vazquez. “We have time to work, to refocus on the [league] and get fit to win against Salt Lake, to get the first three points that are going to be really important for us.”