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Toronto FC Lacking Killer Instinct with Playoffs Looming

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Momentum is important this time of year, and Toronto FC doesn’t have much right now.

Luke Galati

There’s no doubt what the highpoint of Toronto FC’s season has been to this point. It was a four game homestand in the middle of the summer, when TFC collected a perfect twelve points.

Toronto was ruthless during that stretch, outscoring their opposition 12-2 over those four matches. BMO Field was a venue to fear at that time: the home side would take an early lead and weren’t satisfied to stop there.

However, now in late September, and three games into their final four-game homestand of the season, and it appears that Toronto FC has lost some of that killer instinct. Last night’s 0-0 draw with Orlando City SC was their third straight at home.

Toronto FC hasn’t been able to play a complete 90 minutes at BMO Field since August 6, which is especially concerning with the playoffs just a matter of weeks away. This should be when the club is starting to figure things out, not create more questions.

As TFC’s opponent last night, Orlando City, knows all too well, when draws, especially at home, start to pile up they can be very detrimental. For Toronto, this recent stretch cost them a shot at the Supporters’ Shield. More than that, it cost them any significant lead they had in the Eastern Conference standings.

Once again last night, Toronto FC failed to play a complete 90 minutes, only in reverse this time. The two games prior saw them start out slow, dig themselves into a hole, and then fight their way back.

They dominated from the start of the match, making it look as though it was only going to be a matter of time before they found the back of the net. But they were never able to finish any of their chances, and started to lose momentum as the game progressed.

Any chance of securing three points essentially came to a screeching halt when Tosaint Ricketts was given a second yellow card for attempting a bicycle kick, and appearing the make contact with an Orlando defender. He didn’t, it was an absurd call, but it didn’t matter. At that point Toronto didn’t look likely to score the winner anyway, the desperation needed just didn’t seem to be there.

The club’s player of the match, essentially by default, was goalkeeper Alex Bono, who registered his fourth clean sheet of the season. The fact that he was started at all was somewhat surprising, it seemed that the club had finally re-introduced Clint Irwin only to take him out the next match.

Whether its Bono or Irwin going forward remains to be seen, as the former is making it incredibly difficult to take him out of goal. The goalkeeper that Vanney plays Saturday against D.C. United is expected to be the one who plays for the rest of the year.

To be fair, looking in a big picture sense, Toronto FC is still the top team in the Eastern Conference. The draw put them a point against both New York teams, although they no longer have a game in hand with three matches remaining.

But the MLS Cup Playoffs, the real measure of Toronto’s season, is all about getting hot at the right time. Just look at last year’s Portland Timbers, who turned a strong last month of 2015 into a Championship season.

Toronto FC has just three games left in this season to get back into form, to clinch their first ever playoff home game and potential a bye through the first round. With all of these dropped points, the aren’t making it easy on themselves.