Nothing left to do but win for Toronto

And so — as many hacks before me have written, and many hacks after me will write — it all comes down to this. Toronto FC can’t control their destiny; it’s been left in the hands of other teams. They can’t talk about it forever; eventually (about seven hours from this writing, to be precise) they’ll need to go out and get those three points. It’s the last soccer game ever at Giants Stadium, the merciful end of a wretched season for New York, and for Toronto, there’s nothing left to do but win.

It seems so very long ago that the squad looked powerful in a 3-2 road win to open the season at Kansas City. Remember how optimistic you felt after that game, when ol’ Captain Jimmy scored a cracker, and Guevara potted a brace? A lot has changed since then. New names, new faces, new approach. A team sputtering to the finish line but, beneficiary of the league’s sacrosanct policy of parity, still very much alive in its quest for postseason glory.

It’s going to be an odd game, really. New York have nothing to play for, except their pride, or perhaps some top-down-enforced sense of nostalgia about closing out the cavernous footie-monstrosity in the Meadowlands. And Toronto — win, lose or draw — will have no definitive answer about their playoff positioning come the final whistle. Even if they crush the Red Bulls 4-0, all they can do is wander around the field, numb and nervous.

They’ll have to do the same as the lot of us — huddle around a screen and pray that relative strangers, many miles away, pick up the pieces and give us what we need.

The team must be thinking offensively, surely. No one would be surprised to see Cummins run out a 4-3-3 on paper (which would likely morph into a 3-5-2 during the game, a la last week, with Brennan sliding up into the attack and DeRo doing some tracking back). DeRo, harkening back to his heroic hat-trick performance in the final game of this year’s Canadian Championships, will likely attempt to take the team on his shoulders once again. But while those are some very capable shoulders, this team needs a back-to-front effort to save its supporters from complete mental meltdown.

One goal will not ease the hearts or minds of anyone associated with the team. Maybe even two goals won’t. But since the odds of a tenth-minute 3-0 lead are fairly slim, it’s going to be nervous times for the Reds faithful tonight. Seemingly the last five games have all been “the biggest game in Toronto FC history” — tonight, however, is the biggest night in Toronto FC history, with the team’s result carrying equal weight as Seattle’s ability to deprive Dallas of full points, or Salt Lake’s attempt to triumph over Colorado.

Supporters are accustomed to this feeling of helplessness: using every ounce of positive energy lingering in one’s body to will a team to victory. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. For the players, it’s likely a new feeling… but then, it’s tough to muster much sympathy for this particular plight, spectacular as the team has been this season in compromising its own late-game leads. Maybe in some alternative universe, Toronto holds on to all those late-game leads, and today’s game against New York is a meaningless run-around heading into the playoffs.

But as it is, our minds will be flitting around the continent tonight, desperately hoping for whatever combination of outcomes is necessary to provide us with at least two more games in 2009. That’s what we can do — direct our energy, yell, scream, kick table legs.

And for the players, there’s nothing left to do but win.

3 Responses to “Nothing left to do but win for Toronto”

  1. Ouch. Tough off-season, I guess. I didn’t watch the game, but 5-0? Total implosion?

  2. I guess that particular item of business, that nasty “winning” bit, still remains on the to-do list, uncrossed.

  3. I come close to puking in my mouth every time I think back to the game…

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