When Toronto FC took the lead in games last season they were as good as over. The referee might as well have blown the final whistle and awarded all three points to Toronto. It would have saved time.
Only twice last season, including playoffs, did Toronto FC take the lead in a game and have it end with anything other than a victory. The club’s ability to hold onto leads made them an incredibly difficult opponent.
That’s why, while it is still too early in the 2017 season to truly panic about Toronto FC’s play, their initial results have been concerning. Already this year, in just six matches, Toronto FC has blown three leads. This weekend was the worst yet as the club took a 1-0 lead against their rival Columbus Crew only to lose 2-1.
If Toronto FC could have held onto the leads they created, like they almost always did last year, they would find themselves with seven more points, and at the top of the standings. Instead, TFC have only been able to hold on and win once this season.
In all, they have held a lead for only 35 minutes so far this season, not including injury time. TFC squandered leads after just two and three minutes respectively against Philadelphia Union and Atlanta United.
Toronto FC has taken nearly as many leads as the top teams in the Eastern Conference. However, they have held those leads for significantly less time than the top teams.
What’s going wrong? Well, a lot of it has to do with Toronto’s defence switching off shortly after the team scores. All three game tying goals Toronto has allowed so far this season have come off counter-attacks in which defenders were out of position.
In other situations, Toronto’s backline has been one of the best in the league this season. They have only allowed six goals in their six games played, and have shutout their opposition three times.
But when they score, TFC become vulnerable, allowing four of the six goals they have conceded this year just 25 minutes after scoring themselves. This sends a message of hope to their opposition, that a Toronto FC lead is never safe.
The good news for Toronto FC is two-fold. It is still very early in the season, and the team has plenty of time to curb this trend before it really starts to hurt them. At this point last season, TFC only had one more point than they do currently, albeit having played all their games on the road. They ended up finishing top five in the league and making it all the way to the MLS Cup.
Toronto FC also has a stretch of three straight home games coming up, giving them a chance to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference in front of their home fans. That will only happen, however, if they can figure out how to hold onto a lead.