TORONTO – Play, recover, train, travel, repeat.
That is life for Toronto FC these days.
Braced for a third game in six days, crisscrossing the continent once more, California-bound for a Saturday match against the San Jose Earthquakes, TFC are looking to build off winning a third-straight Canadian Championship on Wednesday.
“[The last two years, winning the Canadian Championship] was a spring board; we went on a run after. We're hoping that happens again this year,” said Jonathan Osorio post-match. “We still have a chance; we're not down. When we play well, this team is the best in the league. It's about staying healthy and playing to our level.”
“We're looking forward to Saturday; building off of this,” continued Osorio. “In a lot of cases, [when] teams win a championship in the middle of the season, that is what gets them going.”
Eleven matches remain in the 2018 MLS regular season, each of “vital importance” according to Greg Vanney.
“We still have a lot to look forward [to]; still have the season ahead of us,” said Marky Delgado. “We can definitely catch up with a playoff spot.”
“This is a positive step forward; we continue working,” added Delgado. “We have a big game this weekend against San Jose.”
With one loss in their last eight matches since the quest for the Voyageurs Cup began mid-July, Toronto needs to continue taking care of business on their end as the summer grinds turns into the fall sprint, with the postseason coming into glimpse on the horizon.
“We've been in good form; got to maintain that,” urged Tosaint Ricketts. “The championship will add that confidence going into the next game against San Jose.”
In the Earthquakes, TFC meets a side hoping to turn their season around.
San Jose seemed to have found a solution to their troubles two weeks ago with a monumental 3-1 win away to Western Conference leaders FC Dallas, only to drop their next match to the Colorado Rapids 2-1 at home.
Toronto won their only meeting last season 4-0 at BMO Field on September 9 with Victor Vazquez, Jonathan Osorio, and a Jozy Altidore brace rounding out the scoring.
Altidore and Chris Mavinga will not available, nor will Shea Salinas for the Earthquakes.
Despite the fixture congestion, Vanney was able to rest Drew Moor midweek as he makes his return from injury. Moor was on the bench on Wednesday night.
But ahead of the cup finale, Moor maintained he was ready to go.
“I feel like I am,” said Moor. “I was out for a long time, it was a very significant injury – I didn't expect it to take me as long as it did to come back. I want to play as much as I possibly can, I've been preparing both physically and mentally to get as much time as I can.”
And the latest addition to the squad could be in the fold as well, as Lucas Janson, a 24-year-old forward acquired on loan from Argentine side Club Atletico Tigre earlier this month, arrived in Toronto on Tuesday, collecting a winners' medal in his second day with the club and celebrating his birthday the next day. Never a bad way to start.
Whether he is ready to contribute immediately remains to be seen.
“We'll see when he arrives,” said Vanney on Tuesday. “It's had to say having not even seen him in a training session and where fits in with group, in terms of his fitness level, sharpness. We'll assess that.”
“We're eager to get him in with the group,” continued Vanney. “We have so many games going right now that another good player can be a beneficial option for us. I don't know how quickly, but we're excited about the prospects and the skill-set he brings – a little bit different than what we have in our team right now, which gives us some options.”
Seven months into the season, Toronto has already been through the wringer, including eight Concacaf Champions League games, four in the Canadian Championship, and 23 thus far in MLS play.
“It's crazy, I feel like we should be in mid-December with the amount of games we've played, the travel and everything,” said Moor. “That's why we're here. As much as it's been a struggle at times, both on the field with the group and with me personally dealing with injury, it's been so much fun and it's why we play the game.”
“It's part of the reason I came to this club: to play in big games, battle adversity, to embrace the struggle that we put ourselves through every day,” continued Moor. “Sure, we'd love to win the Supporters' Shield every season and win every single game, but this is a league that is still parity driven and right now we're digging ourselves out of hole. We have to continue to embrace that; realize when we do, we can make a run with the squad that we have.”
That ability to meet fortune and failure the same is a trademark of this side. Such single-mindedness will be needed in the months ahead.
“One thing this team does extremely well [is] stay very evenly balanced,” said Moor. “We have some characters in the locker room, a coaching staff, and really the whole club, that doesn't allow low points to be too low and doesn't allow the high points to be too high.”
“It's a mature group,” continued Moor. “A very positive, spirited group. You have to take the good bounces with the bad. We've played a lot of games, a lot of big games; we've succeeded and failed at times. We've come together as group, realized that we expect big things from each other every single day and the best way to go about that is remaining positive and looking forward.”