TFC priming for stretch run

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Toronto FC cut one defender and signed another this week, but it might be just the start of sweeping changes to Chris Cummins' playoff-challenged team.

With their MLS record a maddeningly inconsistent 7-7-6 and the last 10-game stretch starting tomorrow against DC United, Cummins and his boss Mo Johnston have limits to their patience.

"We have 10 remaining (four home and six road) and we need a good 13 to 15 points from that," Cummins said yesterday at BMO Field, after a detailed team meeting and practice. "This is a defining game for us. We have to prove to people we can play a lot more solid at home. Roll up our sleeves and say: 'This is our house, try and get the three points from us'. "

The Real Madrid hype is done, while TFC's tentative play knocked it out of the CONCACAF tournament, so there's no excuses for not concentrating on its first MLS playoff berth.

It starts in the crucial 76 to 90-minute intervals, when Toronto has given up a league-high 11 goals.

TFC, however, will be short at the back tomorrow, after releasing defender Marco Velez and with speedy Marvell Wynne out with a hamstring injury.

Nick Garcia is questionable with a calf problem and newly signed Hatian national Lesly Fengelli won't have his paperwork done in time.

Nana Attakora should be healthy to play back, but it still means another long day for 32-year-old captain Jim Brennan. The coach leans on Brennan from the pre-game pep talk to the final whistle, but has concerns about his durability.

"Jim's played more 90-minute games than anybody," Cummins said. "So I've said give me a good outing, give me everything you've got and I've got someone who can come in and play left back as good as him or push him."

Brennan said TFC is often its own worst enemy late in games.

"It's more mental," he said. "Towards the last 10 minutes, it's tough and that's where you have to be mentally right. Physically, you'll be tired by then, but you have to dig in.

"It's a funny league. It's tight, but I think we're in a good position. We can see everything ahead, but we don't have the pressure on us that the guys on the top of the league have, where everyone's trying to catch you."


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