Even with their playoff hopes all but shattered, Toronto FC head coach Paul Mariner doesn’t see motivation being a problem going into Saturday’s game at Houston.
Toronto (5-15-5) is last in the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer with just one point in its past five matches. TFC are coming off a 2-1 road loss Wednesday to the Columbus Crew.
“The motivation is where we are in the league,” Mariner said Friday after training at Downsview Park.
“I like to walk around town with my head up, but I don’t like getting beat. The worst thing in the world for me is getting beat. I don’t get over it. It stays with me for days. Fortunately we’ve got a run of games almost back to back, you’ve got to shrug it off as soon as you can.”
Toronto has a loss and a tie against the Dynamo this season. In the previous meeting between the teams at Houston, Toronto led 3-1 at half time and came away with a 3-3 draw when the Dynamo scored in the last minute. Houston defeated Toronto 2-0 at BMO Field on July 28.
Mariner says the key is to play hard the full 90 minutes, which for the Reds is more difficult than it sounds based on past performance.
Against Columbus they started slowly and gave up a goal in the fourth minute and fell behind 2-0 in the second half before making a strong finish that fell short.
“I had a meeting this morning with the players, you can’t play 45 minutes of football in MLS, you’ve got to play 90-plus,” Mariner said. “We’ve got to try to put it all together. Hopefully we’ll do that on Saturday against a very well-drilled, very good Houston team.”
The Dynamo are tied for third at 11-6-8 with the Chicago Fire and have not lost at home this season going 8-0-4. The Reds, meanwhile, are 2-8-2 on the road.
Mariner had told his team that he wanted them to come out Columbus at full speed, but they did just the opposite.
“That was our game plan to come out smart and strong from the beginning and we didn’t do that and I think that hurt us,” said midfielder Luis Silva, who scored Toronto’s goal in Columbus.
“I think if we had started from the beginning we would have been on top on the score sheet.”
Freddy Hall, a Bermuda international, started in goal against Columbus with Milos Kocic, who had played every league game this season, given a break.
Hall quickly found out what it is like playing for Toronto when Eddie Gaven of Columbus took a shot that was deflected past the helpless goalkeeper early in the game.
“It’s to be determined,” said Mariner when asked who would start in goal Saturday. “Everybody is fit. Milos knows exactly where we stand with him and so does Fred, so it’s helping the staff look into the future also.”
Regardless of the who plays in goal, Toronto needs to come out stronger than they did against Columbus.
“Just mentally, individually, we weren’t sharp enough,” Silva said. “It happens to the best. We just have to move on and look forward to tomorrow. They’re a really good team, they’re going to be tough but in MLS anything can happen.”
Notes: Hassli and midfielder Torsten Frings did not train with Toronto FC on Friday. “Just resting up, they’re more mature players, let’s put it that way,” Mariner said. ... Toronto’s next game is Tuesday at BMO Field against Santos Laguna of Mexico in their second CONCACAF Champions League group match. Each has a win over Aguila of El Salvador with Toronto winning 5-1 and Santos Laguna 5-0. ... Until Wednesday, the only game Kocic had missed was the March 7 CCL quarter-final match against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Rogers Centre. Stefan Frei played in the 2-2 draw before suffering a broken leg in training later in March.