Avila: Toronto FC's 'fighting for the shirt'

Toronto FC is 0-8 in the MLS season, but on Wednesday night the beleaguered side has a chance to both eliminate a rival and move on to the final of the Canadian Championship.
TORONTO - What does a team mired in an historic losing streak need to do ahead of a winner-take-all cup semifinal against a big rival?

According to midfiedler Eric Avila, his team - in the midst of an eight-game league losing streak - just needs to find its identity.

"Before the season started, we had some sort of identity [and knowledge of] where we wanted to go," the Toronto FC midfielder told reporters on Tuesday after practice. "When the season started, I think we lost it just a little."

Avila may have been understating the case a bit.

TFC headed into 2012 on the high of a relatively successful second half of the previous season, after a complete overhaul that brought in the likes of Torsten Frings, Danny Koevermans, Ryan Johnson, and Avila.  The Reds carried that good feeling into the beginning of this year, when they dispatched heavily favored L.A. Galaxy in the CONCACAF quarterfinal just ahead of the start of the MLS campaign.

Everything went downhill from there, and Toronto has now taken ownership of the worst ever start to an MLS season. It's something that has increasingly weighed on the players, and over the weekend veterans Johnson and Julian de Guzman were vocal in their displeasure towards the direction the team was taking.

In response to that, Avila said that TFC staff and players held a meeting on Monday to "clear the air."

"We really talked about what we're trying to do going forward and what we're trying to build here," Avila stated. "We have had meetings before, but this was a really serious, sat down, full-on group meeting within ourselves and also with our captain."

The 24-year-old said that the meeting helped focus the struggling the team on getting back to basics, something that he believes will help Toronto to finally start winning.

"It could be too late, it could be not too late, but the thing is that we're trying it for ourselves right now," he said. "We need results, and so we're going to try to get it done."


It starts Wednesday night at BMO Field versus a Montreal side currently on a hot streak and looking to advance to the final of the Amway Canadian Championship.

For Avila, it doesn't matter who the opponent is or what competition the team is taking part in, as the Reds are simply trying to reinstill some pride after the toughest of stretches.

"We're fighting for the shirt. This is who we are," he said. "We've got to be proud of what we're fighting for."