Home MLS Toronto FC Man disadvantage: TFC now up to eight dropped points when opponents see red

Man disadvantage: TFC now up to eight dropped points when opponents see red

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Barring some kind of epic collapse, Toronto FC will be a playoff team. So, it’s not like Saturday’s 1-0 Rivalry Week loss to the 10-man Montreal Impact will derail a season of hard work.

Sure, you can argue that the loss puts a serious dent in the team’s push for the Supporters’ Shield. But caring about the Supporters’ Shield — that’s kinda the sports version of being into Coldplay. After all, only three Supporters’ Shield winners in the previous 15 seasons have gone on to win MLS Cup. So the Shield is really a poison chalice, I mean, if a shield can be a chalice, which it can’t.

Yet, there’s a deep sense of foreboding that came with Saturday’s loss. Part of it came with the sight of reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco limping off the pitch after being kicked and hacked and whacked. The Montreal Impact, it can be argued, took advantage of the red card that was issued to Calum Mallace late in the first half. Once your side goes down to 10 men — you have a pretty good idea that it will take a heck of a lot for a referee to reduce you to nine. So, in a weird but totally logical way, the card opened the door for the Impact to hack away at Giovinco in a way that brought back memories of the whack-and-chop MLS of the 1990s and 2000s that was so often maligned for the cowboy justice on the field.

But, for TFC, comes a second, deeper problem. Why the heck can’t this team win when it goes up a man for a significant portion of the game?

TFC and its supporters can look to three matches this season where the Reds were up by a man — or men — for long periods… and didn’t win.

On Saturday, Mallace went off late in the first half. The Reds lost, yielding the winning goal to Igancio Piatti while up a man.

Back in mid-August, the Reds and the Houston Dynamo were tied 1-1 when Abdoulie Mansally got his walking papers right before halftime. The Reds had a half to take advantage, but had to settle for a point.

And, in mid-July, the Reds were up one man on San Jose in the 30th minute. Early in the second half, San Jose was reduced to nine men. The Reds lost 2-1.

(OK, I see you all. You’re thinking “but you just wrote that you need to pretty well kill someone in order for a ref to put your team down two men.” But remember that the Earthquakes-TFC match had some, ahem, peculiar officiating. The MLS Disciplinary Committee rescinded both of the red cards in question.)

Putting it bluntly, the Reds turned nine points into one.

And, had they earned those eight points more, they’d be so far ahead in both the overall and Eastern Conference standings, supporters could debate if any of the players should actually touch that Supporters’ Shield or not (I say it’s bad luck).

More importantly, had the Reds built a larger cushion, coach Greg Vanney could have more time to get his team playoff-ready. The quicker you clinch, the faster you can sit players so they can get needed rest ahead of the playoffs (see, rest, not the Supporters Shield, should be the main goal, here). With a team that’s suffered as many iniuries as the Reds have this season — resting players down the stretch should be the goal, here.

But, those eight points hurt a bit. It used to be that TFC used to be the butt of every give-up-a-late-goal joke that was out there. And, despite that this has been the club’s best season in its history — top of the East and the Voyageurs Cup already in the bag — we’re gonna see more TFC fans being mercilessly teased about how the key to beating the Reds is taking a red card.

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