A glance at Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference standings and one might presume they were upside down.
There sits Toronto FC in last place in the East with an 0-2-0 record and zero goals scored. It’s one of three teams yet to record a point and one of just two (along with the Seattle Sounders) who have yet to find the back of the net.
“For us, there’s still 32 games left in the season. To be fair, the first bunch of games is (about) trying to find your rhythm, find some of the details, get a look at some of the new guys we have in, the new relationships, try a few new things,” Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney told Sportsnet.ca.
After playing four games (two MLS and two CONCACAF Champions League) during a two-week stretch that included travel to Monterrey, Mexico, the club hasn’t hit the pitch for a match since its loss to the Montreal Impact on March 17.
“In one way, it’s good, you have time to refocus, to work more, for the players injured to come back,” Toronto FC midfielder Victor Vazquez told the team’s website. “But also, when you get two weeks break and you lost the game before, it’s difficult because your mind is still thinking on that game.
“But we have to take it like it is. We have time to work, to refocus on the (league) and get fit to win against Salt Lake, to get the first three points that are going to be really important for us.”
Vazquez is one of the injured players who appear ready to return after hurting his back in the opener. TFC will likely also have defender Chris Mavinga, who suffered a lower-body injury in the second leg of Toronto’s CONCACAF semifinal. Fullback Justin Morrow was also injured that night, but he is still uncertain to face Real Salt Lake.
Real Salt Lake (1-1-1) arrives in Toronto on the heels of its first win of the season, a 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls on March 17. It was just the third goal of the year for the club, which has struggled to find the offense that helped it get into the thick of the playoff race during the final 15 games last year before ultimately just missing out.
Two of the goals have come off penalty kicks.
“We have to keep working hard. Things are not coming off right now,” Real Salt Lake midfielder Luis Silva told the Deseret News. “Maybe we’re a little rusty, we haven’t played together in a while. The goals are going to come, we’ve just got to be patient, we can’t get frustrated with each other, especially on the pitch. The quality is there, we’ve just got to create more chances and then put them away.”
Last year, the Red Bulls led MLS with an average of 16.1 shots per game. This year’s squad is averaging 12 per game, ranking them 16th in the 23-team league.
The club hopes midfielder Albert Rusnak’s return from Slovakian national team duty provides a shot in the arm to its tepid offense. Rusnak scored his first international goal last Thursday in Slovakia’s win over the United Arab Emirates. The 23-year-old also scored Real Salt Lake’s goal against the Red Bulls.