Toronto FC clinging to playoff hopes
Amazingly, even though Toronto FC is in last place in Major League Soccer, the Canadian club still has a chance to make the playoffs.
But it'll require the team to string a few wins together, starting Saturday night in New York when they take on the Red Bulls (7:30 p.m. ET).
Toronto, with a 7-12-7 record and 28 points, sits in the bottom of the Eastern Conference, with four games left in the regular season.
The top three teams in the Eastern and Western Conferences automatically qualify for the post-season, with the next two highest finishers overall — currently New York (34 points) and Real Salt Lake (35) — holding down the two wild cards.
Toronto stands six points back of the final playoff spot, which means a loss on Saturday would essentially kill off any chance it has of qualifying for the post-season, a fact not lost on coach John Carver.
"We have to win the game on Saturday, because if we don't, we are almost out of it," Carver told the team's official website. "The guys have got to see that we have had so many opportunities. It's amazing because if we can get three points in this game, we could be a lot closer to one of the wild card places for the playoffs."
As if fighting for a playoff spot wasn't enough motivation to win, Carver said his players have another reason to play hard against New York — to ensure they'll be back next season.
"The players are playing for their contracts," the coach admitted. "We want to take the club forward and the only way we are going to do that is by having the right players at the club. We are fighting for our lives and the players know that they are fighting for their futures."
A victory in New York won't come easy, though.
Toronto has just three victories on the road since entering the league in 2007, and sports an anemic 2-10-7 record since the beginning of June.
But Carver believes there is cause for optimism after his team fought to a 1-1 tie against the Houston Dynamo, the two-time defending league champions, last week in Toronto.
"The way we finished the game against Houston, we should have some momentum to take us into this game. We've all let ourselves down at times this season, and we've been talking about needing to win games, but this really is last chance saloon, because if we don't win this game, our playoff chances are dead and buried," said Carver.
Toronto defender Julius James will be back with the team Saturday after sitting out last week's game with a hamstring injury, but forward Carlos Ruiz is unlikely to play against New York because of an ongoing problem with his knee.
Toronto's next game is Oct. 11 in Texas against FC Dallas (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 8:30 p.m.), before hosting its final home game of the season on Oct. 18 against the Chicago Fire (CBC, CBCSports.ca 3:30 p.m. ET).
Toronto closes out the regular season on Oct. 25 against the San Jose Earthquakes (CBC Bold, CBCSports.ca, 10 p.m. ET).