TORONTO – Two weeks.
That is how much time will elapse between matches for Toronto FC with their next fixture on September 15 at BMO Field against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Since the 2018 season began way back on February 20, in frigid conditions in Denver as the Concacaf Champions League kicked off against the Colorado Rapids, this is the longest pause Toronto have had to catch their breath in a frantic campaign.
The plan is to put that time to good use.
“The first couple days is to recover from what has been a busy time period. Then we'll put in seven, eight days of training that are going to be hard,” said Greg Vanney. “And then we'll slow things down because we've got a busy week on the other side of this international break. That's the program for the next two weeks.”
Days after welcoming the Galaxy, Toronto will face Tigres UANL midweek at BMO Field in the first edition of the Campeones Cup, before hitting the road for a crucial match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
During the international break, five TFC players will be with their national sides: Jonathan Osorio, Tosaint Ricketts, and Liam Fraser with Canada; Alex Bono and Marky Delgado with the U.S.
Jay Chapman was replaced by Fraser on the Canada squad when he pulled out due to an injury.
“The nature of these international breaks is you play a game and guys go in a lot of different directions. The group is scattered right now,” said Michael Bradley. “For the guys who are here, it's trying to take advantage of the time on an individual basis; get what they need.”
“For some, that is time to recover from injuries. For others, time to recover from a busy period. Other guys need training, fitness, and sharpness. We'll make sure we get that part right,” continued Bradley. “And then as we move into next week, get closer to the game, we'll make sure as the group comes back together that we're very clear about the task at hand; what has to go into these last seven games.”
The fortnight could be enough time to see some of those injured – Chris Mavinga and Auro – ready to make their returns, according to Vanney.
“They could be; it'll be close,” said Vanney. “Will depend on their reaction to training. We'll try to progress each back in on their time-line. Hopefully, within that stretch of games, they'll both be back.”
Victor Vazquez was forced off early against LAFC on Saturday, but Vanney was optimistic he should, “recover pretty quickly.”
Since the World Cup break in June, where Toronto had 11 days between games, the club has played an astounding 17 matches in 70 days, roughly a game every four days.
Another busy week awaits on the other side of this one, but after that, only one more compacted schedule lies with four days between road matches against D.C. United and the Montreal Impact in October.
Vanney is looking forward to putting in some time on the training pitch.
“When we have the opportunity to prepare, get our team through the rigours of the week, have everybody connected and on the same page, then we're in a good position,” said Vanney. “You don't get many of those.”
“I like having these opportunities to work with the group, especially when we need to reset a few things,” added Vanney. “We're going into a window where we have no room for error; have no more margins. We're not out of it, but we know we've got to be the best version of ourselves every single game we play.”
Seven matches remain in the regular season for Toronto FC.
“We've done an awful lot of talking this year, amongst ourselves,” said Bradley. “At this point there isn't anything that hasn't been said. Everybody knows the situation we're in. Everybody knows that our margin for error is gone. We have to run the table here. Does 18 or 19 points get you in? Maybe, I don't know. I'm almost sure 21 will.”
“Until that table mathematically tells us we can't get in, we're going to continue to try to find the right ways to get this turned around,” continued Bradley. “It's one game at a time.”
“Given where we are, getting the first win or two will be the absolute hardest. We've not managed to ever create any real momentum this year,” added Bradley. “Every time we've been close, there's been a sputter.”
Up first is LA.
“A final at home against the Galaxy, turnaround a few days later for a big, exciting game against Tigres,” said Bradley. “If you can beat the Galaxy, then you get another final against Red Bull. If you can beat Red Bull, you get another final a week later. That's where we are; that's the situation.”