A number of ugly losses and consistently inconsistent defensive outings have proven that TFC still needs polishing before it can join MLS' top tier.
That lofty goal was always looking to be more than a long shot, but the door was virtually slammed shut over the weekend when Sporting Kansas City romped to a 4-1 victory over the Reds. More than that, the result was another in a growing list of matches that have shown just how far the rebuilt TFC squad has to go to be considered an elite side in Major League Soccer.
So far this season, Toronto has suffered big losses to SKC, D.C. United and Real Salt Lake, with narrow defeats to the likes of New England, Dallas and Colorado thrown in for good measure. The one-goal losses can be explained away as examples of MLS' extreme parity, but the big defeats tell a different story.
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All three of the big losses were road matches against teams currently occupying a top four spot in the MLS standings. The first, a 3-0 pummeling by RSL way back in March, came early enough in the season that words like "chemistry" and "unfamiliarity" were thrown around to explain Toronto's lacklustre performance.
The more recent two, a 3-0 loss at D.C. on July 30 and Saturday's three-goal capitulation in Kansas City, paint a more troublesome picture. They both came late enough in the season that chemistry issues can no longer be used as an excuse, and they both represented a failed opportunity to close the widening gap between TFC and the top tier of the Eastern Conference.
Toronto sits quite comfortably in third place — a spot it has occupied for virtually the entire summer — but it could have thrust itself into the conversation for the East title and, by extension, the Supporters' Shield race, with a pair of positive results.
Instead, Ryan Nelsen's squad will have to be content with staving off challengers for its third place perch in the Eastern Conference, and with it the right to skip the dreaded play-in round of the postseason.
The good news is that TFC looks poised to do just that, with a relatively weak schedule of opponents ahead in the run-in to the end of the regular season. And while beleaguered Toronto fans will gladly take a first-ever postseason berth, it was looking like an even shinier brass ring was within reach for a while.