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Toronto FC hits rock bottom with stunning CCL loss to open up 2019 campaign


No one expected Toronto FC to hit rock bottom so fast after winning the 2017 MLS Cup and placing second in the 2018 Concacaf Champions League.

Even with injuries and holes in the squad affecting the Reds, they were expected to win on Tuesday night against Panamanian side Independiente in the Concacaf Champions League.

After falling 4-0 to the Panamanian club in one of the worst performances an MLS club has put together in the CCL, the Reds are at rock bottom.

Sebastian Giovinco isn’t coming back to save the Reds, and Jozy Altidore, who is working his way back from ankle surgery, might not even be the answer for the second leg of the round-of-16 matchup at BMO Field next Tuesday.

Even if Greg Vanney had players like Giovinco and Altidore at his disposal, it still wouldn’t have been good enough to advance, as long as the team’s defense remained in its current state.

Laurent Ciman and Chris Mavinga turned in awful performances against the Independiente attack, with Ciman’s showing being particularly embarrassing, as he was responsible for players getting open looks on goal on the first two strikes out of the Panamanian side.

Allowing 14 shots, five of them going on target, against an opponent that was perceived to be much weaker than TFC is simply unacceptable.

Toronto could’ve gotten away with putting zero shots on goal if it played to a scoreless draw or lost 1-0, but it was apparent from the early stages that simply wasn’t going to happen.

The problems at Toronto lie deeper within than many of us thought they did.

Instead of banking on the club to bounce back from its rough 2018 campaign, maybe we should’ve read more into Gregory van der Wiel’s departure after a clash with Vanney, the 5-1 preseason defeat to the Las Vegas Lights of the USL and Giovinco’s willingness to leave after years of success in MLS.

Maybe we put too much trust in Toronto’s roster-building process and thought that a similar squad to the championship-winning side from 2017 could pull off an easy continental result at the start of the campaign before reinforcements come in the form of healthy players and new signings.

Even if Altidore is healthy and a replacement for Giovinco comes into the squad soon, Toronto’s issues have already been aired out by a team that made its debut in the CCL.

Vanney and his players need to look internally for a solution, or the head coach will be without a job in the near future and the players will be playing to keep their spots on the roster soon thereafter.

There’s no doubt that Tuesday was rock bottom and sent a message across MLS that this isn’t the Toronto FC we’ve come to know over the past few years.

It’s possible for Bradley and Vanney to rally the troops ahead of Tuesday’s game and pull off a miraculous comeback to salvage the club’s CCL hopes, but what’s more important is the message they deliver internally ahead of the 2019 MLS season.

If Tuesday’s result doesn’t wake up the locker room, Toronto FC could be in line for more embarrassing defeats before a swift wave of change shakes things up north of the border.


  1. Didn’t see the game but like I’ve said a thousand times ,No relegation no pressure. You can suck but guess what your squad will still be in the first division next year. I hope not to see MB on our Gold Cup squad ,but if I do I will understand .
    MLS speaks louder than talent.

    • “Wigan.” QED. What does pro/rel have to do with this. There have been teams that have made Europe before while being relegated via their domestic cup. The real issue is TFC emerged from a set of minor league teams and non playoff MLS to represent Canada. Someone was going whether we like it or not. Has more to do with how you get to CCL outside of the big 2 than anything to do with MLS. Since the year before they were a finalist — ahead of our domestic squads — I’d surpress my urge to overreact.

    • If you want a real beef it’s that the situation going forward on Canadian CCL participation does not look better thought out. As of next year their domestic cup winner gets the CCL slot and then a CPL team will get a Concacaf League spot. The domestic cup is 2 legs each round which to me protects the more expected teams. And they rigged their domestic cup where TFC doesn’t start til the semis and Vancouver and Montreal go in at the quarters. When USOC was getting truly rolling they exposed the big league teams to more rounds and risk and occasionally Rochester type teams won. A more serious domestic competition where MLS teams have to win several times might get you a better representative. As it stood last year, to go go CCL TFC won just 2 rounds, only 1 of which was an equivalent level opponent. Imagine if Houston won USOC with just one MLS round and came in at the semis.

  2. Well I am going to take the opposite of a almost every thing stated in the article.
    I did expect them to stink. They did last year and got worse. I don’t know why everyone is still racing about Bradley…he USED to be great. He wasn’t last year, he wasn’t for the n at team a couple of weeks ago.
    T his is NOT rock bottom, most ML S teams, if not all, are better than that team they just lost to.
    They got here beating two teams out…a middle of the road and worse.

  3. Let’s be real, this is a combination of (a) someone had to represent Canada even though no one made the MLS playoffs from there, and they won the tournament, plus (b) the same sort of lag between qualifying and playing that used to occasionally bite MLS teams c. 2010, eg, NER, DCU. Based on MLS they had no business being in this tournament, and I wouldn’t have had any expectations of them. You took a bad team and sold its key scorer.

  4. No comment on the Philosopher Jogger’s performance? Wasn’t everyone just commending his greatness after his NATs showing against Panama’s B-team?

      • The body of work is what it is, and the outlier is the rarer one. At this point his body of work stinks and the recent friendlies are the outlier. That is not some sort of derangement. I was a fan for years on up to mid last cycle. He hit the wall at Azteca and it’s rational to evaluate him accordingly. The thing to me is why on earth does a team with a pile of prospects to try waste its time on a player who won’t be there in 4 years. We should already have learned the lessons of “transition when the time calls for it” and “don’t wait til your midfield almost retires to swap them out” last cycle. Berhalter is supposed to be the smarter coach, not continuity from JK/BA errors of judgment.

    • First 2 weren’t his fault. But goals 3 and 4 were basically on him. Man emerges from midfield with Bradley chasing, has time to make throughball to beat defender, goal.


    Rock bottom is an under statement. No urgency, no desire, no motivation….nothing. While Independiente came MOTIVATED TO PLAY, WITHOUT FEAR, with absolutely no respect for TFC. Embarrassed on an international level.

    Think about this for a second……For 90+ minutes ZERO SHOTS ON GOAL??? Against a team that plays in the Panamanian league. like ZERO? Like for 90 minutes absolutely NOBODY was able to be in position to take a shot on a team from Panama?? yet:
    Independiente —————————TFC
    256——————Total Passes——–599 ??? a whole lot of back passing
    71 %————Passing Accuracy——87 %
    29.5 %————-Possession———–70.5 % ???? a whole lot of jogging


    • Just shows you that stats can only tell you so much. Except for the shots, the other stats seemed to indicate total domination by TFC, but nothing was further from the truth. TFC was SLOW. They were a team with major holes up top, in the midfield and in back. Best team in MLS history???? Perhaps 2017 was really more of a flash in the Pan.

      • They grabbed 2 veteran NT players at the tail end of their career plus a Serie A scorer right about 30 as well. They got a couple years of prime age magic and then they got old. I took shedding Gio and signing Boyd to be acknowledging that team had aged out of success and they needed a reboot. However Boyd has never gotten traction in his career and is not the level of the people he is replacing, and is even almost as old as Jozy. So I think it was real but then got old and now they’ve just lost the plot.

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