Late-game hiccups undermining TFC

STEVEN SANDOR, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:05 AM ET

Okay, don't laugh. But Toronto FC should be in first place overall in the MLS.

The Reds shouldn't be in the final throes of what looks to be a failed run at the final playoff spot.

Stop chortling. Toronto FC's late-game woes are well-documented; last weekend's equalizer surrendered in injury time to San Jose's Cornell Glen marked the 15th time TFC has conceded a goal past the 75th minute of an MLS game in '09.

And those goals have transformed a team that should be in first into an also-ran.

Here's the sad history:

- April 11: Allow late goal in 1-1 draw with FC Dallas. Cost: Two points.

- April 19: Concede late penalty kick in 3-2 loss to FC Dallas. Cost: One point.

- May 9: Concede late goal that allows D.C. United a 3-3 draw. Cost: Two points.

- July 18: Give up late goal to Houston Dynamo in 1-1 draw. Cost: Two points.

- July 25: Lead Columbus 2-1 late into second half, then concede two late strikes in a 3-2 collapse. Cost: Three points.

- Aug 1: Give up equalizer in 76th minute to New England in 1-1 draw. Cost: Two points.

- Sept. 26: Defensive lapse allows Chicago to get late equalizer in a 2-2 draw, and Fire sub Calen Carr actually misses an open net in time added on. Cost: Two points.

- Last Saturday: Allow an injury-time equalizer to the already-eliminated-from-playoff-contention San Jose Earthquakes. Cost: Two points.

Do the math. Toronto FC's defensive lapses in the final 15 minutes of games have cost the Reds a grand total of 16 points. Add 16 to their current total of 36, and you come up with 52.

Yes, if games were only 75 minutes long, TFC would be running away with the Supporters' Shield. It would be looking at home-field advantage through the playoffs.

According to coach Chris Cummins, it's an issue the team has discussed ad nauseum.

He said he has warned the team about defending too deep in the late stages of games, allowing opposing teams to come at it.

"People have got to stick to the system, they've got to stick to the game plan," Cummins said.

On Saturday, Cummins also lamented the fact he doesn't have many defensive midfielders on the bench.

True, Carl Robinson was lost this season because of injury, but, earlier this year, rookie Emmanuel Gomez was earning nothing but kudos for his work on defence.

Now, he languishes on the bench. Still, TFC 'keeper Brian Edwards, who surrendered the Glen goal on Saturday, said Cummins is not to blame for his team's misfortunes.

"(Before San Jose) we talked about how, in the last 15 minutes of a game, we're the worst team in the league. It's up to the players, as a whole, as a team. It's not the manager's fault. The manager's doing a tremendous job."

STEVEN.SANDOR@SUNMEDIA.CA


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