Too early to panic?

BILL LANKHOF -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:42 PM ET

Toronto FC coach John Carver is a bit like one of those circus clowns -- smiling on the outside but hurtin' on the inside.

"After the game, I was down. But it's my job to pick the players up. If we lose, I'm disappointed. But it's no good coming in here being miserable," Carver said yesterday, after watching the wheels come off his second-year club Saturday in Washington.

"That (misery) rubs off on people, just the body language so ... once we go through that (coach's office) door and into the players (room), we've got to be upbeat. If you're feeling sorry for yourself, you're in the wrong business."

This team has a lot for which to be sorry: A season-opening 2-0 loss in Columbus and the embarrassing 4-1 encore.

"It was bad enough to concede a goal just after a minute of the game starting but to concede a second straight (goal) is very difficult. When any team starts the way we did with a kamikaze defence, you've got an uphill task ... Your game plan goes out the window," he said.

By the time this club plays its first home game, April 19, it could be 0-3 because this Sunday the suddenly revitalized David Beckham awaits in L.A.

Last year TFC started 0-4 and found the net almost as often as Simon Cowell finds an encouraging word. The difference this year is that not only have they been unable to sustain any offence, they can't keep the ball out of their own net, either.

"Coming out of the tunnel, in warmups, everyone was amped up," said Maurice Edu, who scored Toronto's only goal. "I don't know what happened. I can't explain it, really."

It wasn't supposed to be this way, especially after adding Laurent Robert, the latest knight in shining armour to ride in from the English Premiership.

"He's a good player, he's smart. He adds a little more creativity," Edu said.

But, it still adds up to an Oh!-fer and Carver, to his credit, wasn't letting anyone, especially anyone named Kevin Harmse, off the hook.

"I can't defend him on the tackle," Carver said of a 22nd-minute red card that left the Reds a man short. "It was reckless and I think the referee made the right decision."

Harmse's brain cramp is disappointing because Carver had stressed maintaining discipline.

"I've not said anything to him because he knows how much I stressed that we needed a disciplined performance. I didn't have to speak to him because he was disappointed for himself and for the team after the game. That was enough for me. I didn't need to have a go at him. If I'd walked in there and he wasn't regretful of what he'd done then I'd have torn a strip off him. But, he knew."

This team can't afford mental meltdowns. It can't afford playing short-handed. It simply isn't good enough.

Meanwhile, the most alarming part of this start is the defensive wobble. Defence was supposed to be its strength. Not to worry, Carver said. "It won't take much to put it right. It was the same mistake over and over again."

The Reds have been trying to squeeze higher up the field.

"But there's a time to do that ... if our forwards are putting pressure on the ball the guy with possession can't obviously get his head up to move the ball forward. But if there's no pressure on the ball, you can't squeeze up. What was happening was, when there was no pressure on the ball we were still squeezing up the field and the guy could just pick and pass wherever he wanted. So we had runners coming in from behind and down the side -- and we were still going that-a-way when the ball was coming this way."

Question is: Are they good enough and smart enough to fix it?

It all left goaltender Greg Sutton looking like the object of affliction in a shooting gallery. He saw 18 shots. But at least now Carver, who started Brian Edwards in the opener, has his No. 1 goalie, noting: "I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. Suts has come in like Captain Marvel."

Too bad everyone else has looked like Gomer Pyle.


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