Toronto FC had the opportunity to end its extended winless streak when it took the lead over Philadephia, but once again allowed a late goal to throw away a positive result.TORONTO - Despite already having been eliminated from playoff contention, Toronto FC coach Paul Mariner still wants his players to play as if their jobs depended on it.
Because they do.
And after a dismal midweek 2-1 loss to Chicago Fire, Mariner publicly lambasted his struggling team, demanding a positive reaction to the defeat that put the postseason out of reach.
For 84 minutes on Saturday, TFC followed the boss' orders, looking more motivated than it had in weeks. Yet despite a relatively bright start that saw the Reds pull ahead to a one-goal lead against the visiting Philadelphia Union, it was the same old story in the end as a late goal sunk what looked to be a positive result.
"It's just a little bit of naivete where the goal [against] comes from," Mariner said of the 84th minute Philadelphia strike. When asked what Toronto should be doing in late-game situations to avoid these heartbreaking endings, he offered up a simple solution.
"Clearing your lines, it's just basic."
The players themselves understand their coach's frustration, with the toll of another losing season noticeably wearing on them.
"We need to start winning games," said defender Richard Eckersley. "I think the players need to realize that they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.
"Coming off Chicago, yeah it was an improvement, but we're still not winning. It's still not good enough for this franchise."
Even players who haven't been with TFC very long are starting to feel the effects of a season gone terribly wrong. Darren O'Dea, who joined the side earlier in the summer, says the team needs to learn how to close out matches if it's going to compete in the future.
"[I'm] happy with most of the game," O'Dea said. "Been happy with most of the games the whole season, obviously the whole season since I've been here anyway. And we've not had a win yet so it doesn't matter how well you play for 89 minutes, it's the whole game that matters."
The Irish international, who arrived in Toronto to anchor the league's worst defense, offered up an explanation for why his new side continues to blow sure-fire points in the dying stages of games.
"The team's mentally weak," O'Dea stated. "[At] tough times in games, we don't hold out. We concede late goals, I think since I've been here there's been four or five goal goals between the 80th minute and the 90th minute."
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The former Celtic and Leeds United center back refused to believe that lack of skill is the reason behind Toronto's poor record, instead reiterating that TFC's problems are more mental than physical.
"If we weren't good enough, you could nearly accept it a bit, but it's there every game," he said. "You can see we're nearly there, we're nearly there. The 'nearly' team.
"And you don't get sometimes what you deserve in life, you need to take it. And we roll over when we need to stand up most."