A father of four in addition to being Toronto FC coach, Greg Vanney is used to having his nerves tested.
The 44-year-old former U.S. international is normally a picture of cool. But a recent run of poor form – Toronto (5-6-2) has lost four of its past five (0-4-1) and looked poor in a 2-1 loss to visiting San Jose on Sunday – has clearly left him frustrated.
“I said a lot of my piece in the locker room after in different ways, whether it’s screaming or shouting or being very direct and pointed to the comments that I have to make,” he said after a damp training session Tuesday.
“We’re at a point where everybody across the board just needs to be accountable for their performance, their job, the things that they’re put on the field to do. And when we can get reliability across the board from 10, 11 guys, then our chances of winning those games go up dramatically.
“When you start to have moments of unreliability is when you’re vulnerable as a group to conceding points.”
After collecting 10 of a possible 12 points in its first four games of the season (3-0-1), Toronto has picked up just seven of a possible 27 in the past seven games (2-6-1).
The San Jose loss was especially painful because Vanney had discussed the dangers posed by veteran Quakes forward Chris Wondolowski, describing in detail in advance of the game how the MLS goal king went about his business in the penalty box.
The message didn’t get through as Wondolowski scored career goals No. 149 and 150 with the two strikes – which were virtually identical – coming as advertised by Vanney.
The Toronto coach had also noted San Jose’s penchant for man-marking.
“That was part of our discussion before – ‘There’s going to be a lot of mano-a-mano here tonight. The question is can you out-duel your guy throughout the course of this match to gain the advantage, to take advantage of the moment you do take the edge?'"
The answer was no. San Jose winger Cristian Espinoza, the provider on both goals, and Wondolowski won their battles. And, other than Richie Laryea’s opening goal, Toronto failed to take advantage when it had chances at the other end.
Questions can be asked of the TFC front office, too. Vanney has been asking for help on the wing and on defence for months. Injuries and pending Gold Cup call-ups will further stretch a roster missing some key pieces.
Due mainly to its high-scoring start – 18 of its 23 goals came in its first six games – Toronto ranks third in the league, averaging 1.77 goals a game. But it stands 18th on defence, conceding 1.68 goals a game on average.
Vanney says he believes his team can return to winning ways. “We just need to do a better job of executing, especially in those key areas of the field,” he said.
Quentin Westberg, who has taken over from Alex Bono as the team’s No. 1 goalkeeper, also believes a turnaround is not far away.
“The season is long. We have a lot of experienced guys,” he said. “Success is around the corner ... we are close.”
“I think we need to be calm because it’s only 13 games into the season,” added Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo, who returns from a one-game suspension. “We have a lot of games in front [of us] so I think we need to play with confidence and without being scared.”
The time is now to stop the rot with just two games left before a 15-day break during the Gold Cup.
Vanney was waiting on the fitness on several key players ahead of Wednesday’s departure for Vancouver.
Captain Michael Bradley (hamstring) and fellow midfielder Jonathan Osorio (hip and groin), who both missed the San Jose game, worked out on their own Tuesday.
“It’s going to be close,” Vanney said. “I would put them both as questionable.”
Probably more than questionable, given the cross-country flight to Vancouver.
Brazilian fullback Auro, who exited in the 73rd minute Sunday, is dealing with a hamstring issue.
Vancouver (4-6-5) is coming off a 2-1 win over FC Dallas and has lost just once in its past seven outings (3-1-3).