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WTR Mailbag – On Frustration & Overcoming

Waking the Red's midweek call for your questions – Post-Orlando City, Pre-Vancouver Edition

Photo Essay: Toronto FC Strikes First in Voyageurs Cup Final
Voyageurs Cup, the trophy on the line


That's the only acceptable way of describing that match in Orlando last weekend.

Toronto FC had been in strong form, back to their tight defensive ways that served so well during the long road trip, finally getting healthy, and looking to welcome back their captain... then that happens.

Not only did the team lose one of their most reliable servants pre-match – with Steven Beitashour out of the eleven for the first time this season – but another went down to injury after an hour of play, when Clint Irwin was hobbled following a goal-kick.

Hearts sunk in New York when Sebastian Giovinco limped off the pitch; they did so again for Irwin.

His absence – which was announced yesterday as being of the six-week variety – is a serious blow to the side's fortunes.

Furthermore, their shutout streak of over 270 minutes came to an end just five minutes into the game, when Cyle Larin broke free at the post for an early goal.

The first goal is such a focal point for Greg Vanney – it may be one of his most commented upon tacts – because it changes the way they can approach the game. This side excels (or at least, they have) at staying compact, being difficult to break down, and utilizing the speed and finery of Giovinco to shred oppositions who dare to open up in search of an equalizer.

Perhaps that is why the absence of Jozy Altidore has been so remarkable. His presence up top not only gave Giovinco a foil off which to play, but also opened up space for the Italian by providing TFC with a primary outlet, a pressure relief valve, while drawing defenders towards the ball – like a proverbial moth to a proverbial flame.

What was most disappointing about the goal was how timidly it was given. Sure, one can point to the reassembled, unfamiliar back-line, the craft and guile of Orlando, and Larin's back-post blitzkrieg, but no doubt, the Toronto defense will want that one back upon review.

In all, it was a rather dire first half.

But despite that shortcoming, the side forced themselves back into the match within two minutes of the restart with a wonderful passage of play, as Justin Morrow's ball found Jonathan Osorio, whose neat flick was enough to send in Jordan Hamilton for his first MLS goal.

Hot on the heels of his Voyageurs Cup brace, Hamilton grabs another – the kid is growing; patience, however, will be required.

The came the Irwin injury, forcing Alex Bono into a premature debut. And it showed. His over-exuberance was partially to blame for Orlando taking the lead – rushing off his line unnecessarily.

Those are the lessons one learns with experience. It would be foolish to fault a young keeper for a lack of experience.

And it is easy to look at events that preceded and followed – the controversial actions in each penalty box that determined the outcome – and find them, the injustice, as the lesson of the match.

But there was something else happening that was lost in the noise.

Twice Toronto went down in a match where they were not playing well, and yet, twice they came back.

If the match had gone on another ten minutes – and Josh Williams not been sent off – it would be wise to wager that this team would have found yet another equalizer; re-re-re-equalizing the contest.

That alone is praise-worthy.

This side has capitulated – the 3-0 loss at New York being the primary example, but more often than not, when faced with adversity, they persevere.

Behind by two to NYC FC, they snatched one back before half-time and another in the second half for a draw.

Conceding first in New England – a place they have historically struggled – and yet they fight back for a point.

Fanendo Adi scores early for the Timbers, and Will Johnson responds against his former side – were it not for an unbelievable performance from Jake Gleeson and a Diego Valeri free-kick, that result too would have been different.

And when NYC FC came to Toronto, Kwadwo Poku opened the scoring, but Johnson again found the required response.

Even in defeat, that shocking 3-4 loss to Vancouver, Toronto twice picked themselves out of holes, tying the match up at twos after conceding a pair early and grabbing a late consolation after two in two minutes (that's a lot of twos) stung them in the end.

Had that game carried on would anyone have been surprised if TFC were to have another in their bag.

It brings to mind an old sportism: “We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time.”

The internet and late nights being what they are, that quote appears to belong to either Vince Lombardi, or Yogi Berra (most likely the former). Regardless of origin, it is apropos.

This team is in games. They cannot be taken lightly. They will not be cowed into submission – as long as there are no Bulls about.

And with the way Wednesday night's Voyageurs Cup finale is shaping up, Toronto will need that same fighting spirit to resume position atop the Canadian pile.

MLS rosters are by their nature weak – that is the most obvious reason for the lack of Champions League glory – and they are so by design. A side with a mere twenty senior players cannot challenge those with double or treble the options.

Depth, true depth, where competition for every spot is valid, is a luxury that teams most literally cannot afford – the cap being what it is.

Irwin's injury means either Bono or Quillan Robets will be thrust into the spotlight. Beitashour's availability, along with those of Damien Perquis, Eriq Zavaleta, and Mark Bloom, are all question marks. Michael Bradley's Copa America Centenario adventure ended, but he may is not available either, while Jozy Altidore is still recovering from the hamstring that cost him his.

Those are some strong obstacles to overcome. Never mind the strength of the opponent.

A 1-0 win in the first leg, against a weakened and weary Whitecaps side, left a little to be desired. But given the amount of fight this side has displayed, their willingness to roll their sleeves up and dig deep, it would be unwise to write them off before a ball is kicked.

Drew Moor will be there, so too will Justin Morrow – two of the most reliable defenders this club has ever known. Perhaps Morrow swaps to the right allowing Ashtone Morgan a place on the left and Nick Hagglund slots in at centre-back, his rightful position.

Benoit Cheyrou, Will Johnson, and Jonathan Osorio will be there, so too will a fourth midfielder, either Marky Delgado, Tsubasa Endoh, or Dan Lovitz, depending on which shape it takes.

Sebastian Giovinco wouldn't dream of missing. Nor would Hamilton, just itching to score another.

This group will give Vancouver a game; they will compete.

Sometimes it is best to remember what one has, rather than pine for what one does not.

Please leave your questions or statements (anything really) in the comments section below and the ever-eager WTR staff will respond in kind