Toronto FC reaches crisis stage
Make no mistake about it: Toronto FC is in a state of crisis.
The latest setback for the Reds came Tuesday night at BMO Field with a 1-1 draw against fellow Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake in a crucial group-stage game of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Toronto needed a win against the MLS champs and again on Oct. 19 versus Panama's Arabe Unido at home in its final group-stage game to advance to the next round of the CONCACAF competition.
But the draw, combined with Cruz Azul's 2-0 win over the Panamanians in Mexico on Tuesday night, knocked TFC out of the 16-team tournament. Both Cruz Azul and Real Salt Lake move on to the quarter-finals.
Toronto's elimination comes on the heels of Saturday's 3-2 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS play, dealing the Reds' playoffs hopes a massive blow. TFC sits seven points out of a playoff spot with four games remaining this season.
The loss to San Jose means that unless Toronto can win all four games, it will fail to make the playoffs again — something it hasn't managed since entering MLS in 2007.
"It's kind of been a deflating week," admitted Toronto forward Chad Barrett.
Results on the field are only half of the Reds' problems.
After scoring Toronto's opening goal against San Jose, captain Dwayne De Rosario celebrated by mimicking signing a cheque, sending a message to the club's owners, Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, that he wants a pay raise.
The Canadian midfielder also posted messages about his unhappiness with his salary on his Twitter and Facebook pages. De Rosario's antics didn't go over to well with Tom Anselmi, chief operating officer of MLSE, who publicly criticized the TFC captain during an interview with Toronto sports radio station FAN 590.
De Rosario said he didn't have any second thoughts about his actions.
"All you can do is keep moving forward and I'm going to continue to give 100 per cent on and off the field, stay committed like I always have been and do what I do best — play with pride, passion and joy," De Rosario stated.
The De Rosario soap opera comes in the aftermath of a major team reshuffle two weeks ago when general manager Mo Johnston and coach Preki were fired.
All of which has not escaped the attention of TFC's diehard supporters, who have become disillusioned over the team's poor form on the field, the behind-the-scenes drama and the recently announced increase in season ticket prices for next year.
The announced crowd of 10,581 for Tuesday's match was a clear sign of fan unrest. Large areas in the stands at BMO Field, including the north end, were sparsely populated, leading to a funereal atmosphere.
But coach Nick Dasovic wasn't interested in the poor turnout.
"I saw 11 [players] on our team and 11 on Real Salt Lake and that's what I concentrate on," Dasovic stated.
He also said De Rosario's actions and the media fallout have not distracted the team, a sentiment echoed by TFC forward Chad Barrett.
"I think he knows that he probably picked a bad time to do it. We're behind out captain. … I'm going to back him, the whole team is going to back him — he's always been there for us, we'll be there for him," Barrett said.
After some back-and-forth action, Toronto opened the scoring in the 20th minute.
Reds goalkeeper Jon Conway caught Salt Lake's defence napping and threw the ball over the halfway line to Peterson, who went on a dangerous run down the right before scoring on a gorgeous shot from 25 yards out.
Toronto maintained control of the game early in the second half, but Javier Morales's free kick in the 68th minute deflected off TFC midfielder Julian de Guzman's arm before nestling in the back of the net.
TFC furiously pressed for the winning goal, but couldn't beat Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
TFC returns to MLS action Saturday when it visits the Seattle Sounders (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 3:30 p.m. ET).