Toronto FC's slow start to the 2018 MLS season continued on Saturday with a 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire, leaving the defending MLS Cup champion with just four points from six matches to open the year.
Saturday's draw also capped off a frustrating week for Toronto, with the Canadian club having also lost out in penalties to Chivas in the CONCACAF Champions League final on Wednesday.
For Toronto, the slow start in MLS was to be expected in many ways. After rolling to a historically strong season in 2017, TFC made the CCL a priority early in 2018, and the process put together a stunning run to the final that included wins over Liga MX powers Tigres and Club America before their heartbreaking shootout loss to Chivas.
In the process, coach Greg Vanney made the decision to rotate his side heavily in two MLS matches, resulting in losses to the Colorado Rapids and Houston Dynamo.
On both occasions, Toronto could easily be forgiven. There were bigger things to worry about, and even early season losses to the Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact can be, in some way, passed off as mere blips on the record.
And, for a while at least, it looked as though Saturday would be a return to normalcy for TFC.
Even without the injured Jozy Altidore and with the back line banged up, Toronto staked out a 2-0 lead inside the first half hour, with a third having been waved off after video review, and looked to be on their way to a morale-boosting win.
Instead, the Fire found a way back into the match through Bastian Schweinsteiger.
And then Alan Gordon, as he's done so often over the course of his MLS career, supplied the sucker punch deep into stoppage time.
To be clear, it isn't exactly time for TFC to hit the panic button. Alex Bono has been outstanding behind what can best be described as a makeshift defense and was once again outstanding against Chicago, making a number of brilliant saves early to help his club into the lead and a series of good stops late. Jonathan Osorio and Víctor Vazquez helped the attack keep ticking without Altidore out, and Sebastian Giovinco is still one of the biggest threats in MLS.
Once key players like Drew Moor and Justin Morrow return, and Michael Bradley is back in his natural spot, this team should quickly return to being a force in MLS play.
But as it stands TFC is eight points off the Red Bulls - with Toronto holding a game in hand - for the final playoff spot in an Eastern Conference that has looked incredibly strong to start the season, with clubs like New England and Orlando City showing a lot promise in the early stages.
Saturday's match wasn't a loss, but it was, without question, dropped points. And with Atlanta United and New York City FC having already opened up a sizable gap on Toronto in the East, being in position for one of the top two playoff positions and earning any sort of home field advantage in the playoffs is growing tougher with each negative result.
Toronto must find a way to get it right sooner rather than later.