The Red Bulletin is Waking the Red’s morning update on Toronto FC, wider MLS talking points and more. Related and unrelated chat below the line is welcome.
Major League Baseball’s playoffs bring about an annual debate: rest or rust?
Inevitably, at least one team sweeps one opponent and faces the next having played fewer games and had more rest between the close of the first series and the start of the second. This year, the Cleveland Indians needed only five games to beat our Toronto Blue Jays for a place in the World Series, while their next opponents, the Los Angeles Dodgers or the Chicago Cubs, will slug it out for six or seven.
Logically, winning earlier seems advantageous (and it probably is) but the argument goes that in that time off, teams lose their winning rhythm.
Toronto FC enter the MLS playoffs facing a different - and less catchy - but in some ways similar question: momentum or growth?
The Reds play their final regular-season game against the Chicago Fire on Sunday out of sorts, with one win in their last seven games and none in five. They have been difficult to beat, losing only two in that seven-game span, but reliant on Jozy Altidore for goals and not looking much like they boast the Eastern Conference’s best defensive record. It does not seem an ideal way to start the march towards an MLS Cup.
But that pessimism has never seemed to infect the dressing room. Instead, Greg Vanney has suggested that the team’s recent difficulties might actually benefit them by exposing exactly what they need to improve before they run out of time to do so.
“It was an opportunity that we lost by having several draws in games that were... if we’re looking from a few months back ahead, we thought we would pick up a few more points from this run,” Vanney said on Friday.
“Therein lies opportunity lost. The other thing this has maybe allowed us to do in some ways is look at a few things that we need to make sure are a little bit tighter as we are in this stretch and as we go into the playoffs, which is definitely something we have done. We’re in a position now where we don’t control our own fate in terms of the bye, that’s what we lost out of this situation, but I think we’ve been able to address some things that we needed to make sure were tighter as we go into the playoffs.”
There is some merit to this. It would certainly be a surprise to see Toronto blown out of the water in the first round, as they were in Montreal last year, on the back of several weeks in which they have often been below par or prone to mistakes but have nevertheless managed to grind out draws.
Then there is the small matter of the transformative effect of Sebastian Giovinco’s presence in the lineup.
“Honestly, I think the group is confident,” Vanney added. “I don’t think that’s an issue. I think we’ve recognized that we’ve got to finish a couple of things on one end and we can’t compound errors on the other side. We’ve been good at that all year and we’ve had a little bit of a tough run over this stretch but by and large we’ve played some decent soccer.”
Momentum or growth? With one last regular-season game still to play against the league’s bottom side, perhaps Toronto can still have it both ways.
“I think the group is confident in what they’re capable of doing,” Vanney said. “It would be nice to have a win and obviously that’s what our objective is, just to start a little bit of momentum.”