TFC's playoff hopes alive

DEAN MCNULTY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

Just 48 hours after declaring the chase for a Major League Soccer playoff spot all but hopeless this season, Toronto FC coach John Carver woke up yesterday to find a light at the end of the tunnel.

And, no, it wasn't a train.

What happened was that after playing back-to-back league champion Houston Dynamo to a 1-1 draw at BMO Field on Saturday, TFC watched as the five teams they are fighting with for the final playoff spot all lost in weekend matches.

Kansas City Wizards, D.C. United, San Jose Earthquakes, Los Angeles Galaxy and New York Red Bulls all came out of the fray without a point.

And even though TFC has just four games left , a win in three of four would erase the five point that separates them from the lone spot left in the playoff picture.

"If someone had told me we would be still in the hunt for a playoff spot after Saturday, I would not have believed them," Carver said after a training session at BMO yesterday. "But I look at the weekend results and all those teams we are fighting with are stumbling."

The scenario to make it to the post-season became rosier because in two of TFC's final four matches the Reds go head-to-head with teams they must pass, starting Saturday with an away game against the Red Bulls.

"That becomes a six-point game," Carver said. "I believe that if the team that played the second half against Houston shows up, we can beat (New York)."

He was referring to a much-improved effort after he blasted the team at half time for what he perceived as lacklustre play.

Carver, however, must find a way to overcome TFC's horrid away record of two wins against 12 defeats this season.

Of the four remaining games, three are on the road -- against the Red Bulls, F.C. Dallas and San Jose.

Carver has to hope for a reversal of fortune on foreign pitches to even dream about playing in the post-season.

"If you look at our record, we have 10 losses by one goal and in most of those games we probably should have won except for late goals," he said. "If we get a good result in even four of those 10, we would be comfortably in the post-season."

Carver also got some encouraging news on the injury front with defender Julius James deemed fit enough to train yesterday and striker Carlos Ruiz doing some light workouts.

Both players also are internationals whose countries -- Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala respectively -- have World Cup qualifying matches in the offing.

Carver reiterated his earlier stance that if a TFC player is not fit to play in MLS games, he would hold that player back from international duty.


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