SPORTS

Toronto FC heads to Washington with new attitude and attacking approach

05/18/2012 02:27 EDT | Updated 07/18/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Buoyed by continued cup success and a new attacking attitude, Toronto FC looks to snap its eight-game MLS losing streak when it visits D.C. United on Saturday.

But the 0-8-0 team will have to do it without injured captain Torsten Frings. The former German international is sitting out his second straight game to allow a painful shoulder to heal.

The plan is to rest Frings for Wednesday's second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final against the visiting Whitecaps. The teams tied 1-1 in the opening leg in Vancouver this week.

Toronto has not played in the league since a 2-0 loss to D.C. United (6-4-3) at BMO Field on May 5, a loss that prompted players like forward Ryan Johnson to speak out about the team's negative tactic.

Since then, Toronto has cleared the air with a series of meetings, manager Aron Winter revamped his coaching staff and the team has responded with a win and tie in Amway Canadian Championship play.

Toronto may be 0-8-0 in the league but it is 2-1-4 in cup competition this season. Now the trick is to bring the cup confidence into the league.

The players say it's coming.

"I think things have been turning in a positive direction," Johnson who has played every minute of every league game this season, said Friday.

"It feels lighter," defender Ashtone Morgan said of the team mood.

"It's the same group of guys but just a totally different way we play on the field and the way we pressure the (opponents on the) ball," said goalie Milos Kocic.

Kocic is relishing the team's more pressing tactics. Defence is starting from the other end of the field, rather than letting opponents crowd his goal.

Winter has taken matters into his own hands, shifting assistant coach Bob de Klerk into the role of technical manager and taken on more coaching duties himself — from on-field drills to team talks.

Time is not on Toronto's side, however.

The club's goal this season was to make the playoffs for the first time in its six-year history. Because of the losing streak, TFC currently stands 12 points out of the playoff picture.

"I'll take any point right now to get off this zero," said striker Danny Koevermans. "We have the results in the Cup now but I'll take a point, wherever.

"The first point will come some day. Hopefully (Saturday)."

Added Kocic: "We're overdue."

Toronto tied the Whitecaps 1-1 on Wednesday in cup play, giving up a wonder-strike by Eric Hassli in stoppage time.

A team of goalkeepers wouldn't have stopped the Hassli volley but Winter lamented the fact that his side had not been more ruthless in front of goal earlier.

Missed chances, as well as defensive miscues, have killed the team this year.

Winter's side seems to be tightening up on defence but it still has yet to make the most of its scoring opportunities.

"After we scored, we had some 100 per cent chances," said Winter. "You have to be sharp at that moment, make it 2-0. And at the end of the game, with 10 minutes to go, then you can play the game out.

"But a tie, away, against Vancouver, I think is a very good result."

Even after going ahead in the 66th minute on a Johnson header, Toronto kept coming forward. Winter said he will play the same way Saturday.

Teenage Canadian defender Doneil Henry has helped stiffen the Toronto backline. The 19-year-old is a no-nonsense defender, who moves out to disrupt attacks and then glides back to his position.

"Great. He's made a very good improvement," said Winter.

Said Johnson: "He's doing a phenomenal job for us right now ... I think the team has been feeding off a lot of his energy."

Henry says the 35-year-old Frings has been a mentor on and off the pitch.

Toronto FC has already set the league mark for most consecutive losses to start the season. Now it is looking to avoid getting any closer to the league record for most consecutive losses — 12, set by the 1999 MetroStars.

Notes — Defender Miguel Aceval will also miss Saturday's game through injury. ... Winter danced around questions about his club's interest in Philadelphia defender Danny Califf, although he eventually conceded, "That book is closed." The Union found a willing trade partner in Chivas USA, sending Califf there in exchange for midfielder Michael Lahoud and allocation money.

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