TORONTO - Forward Ryan Johnson probably spoke for more than a few Toronto FC fans after the MLS team went down to its record-setting eighth straight defeat Saturday.
"We can't go on like this. I can't go on like this," said the Jamaican international, sitting hunched on a mat in the team gym. "It's eating me up inside. I can't handle it any more."
Second-period goals by Chris Pontius and Hamdi Salihi gave D.C. United a 2-0 victory that relegated Toronto FC to the worst start in MLS history.
The 1999 Kansas City Wizards (0-7-0) are officially off the hook. At 0-8-0, Toronto FC is by itself in the record book.
Desperate for a point, Toronto came out with a five-man backline that would have been conservative in an away game against the league's best team.
It smacked of desperation before an announced crowd of 18,364 on a sunny day at BMO Field.
"We're walking on eggshells," said Toronto midfielder Julian de Guzman. "Once they crack, everything just falls apart.
"I don't think that should be happening. Especially at home when you have your fans behind you."
Added Johnson: "It's embarrassing, I think. It's embarrassing that the fans come to watch us and we're just playing so defensive."
Johnson could be seen remonstrating with teammates and his coach during the match.
"You saw the frustration for me because I felt we were on our heels the whole time just waiting for them to play the ball. We were just sitting in our half the whole time," he explained.
"We did that the last game against Montreal and it was the worst. It was the worst feeling, like I didn't even want to play any more. It's awful."
Johnson is no whiner. In many ways, he is the conscience of the team — always willing to answer questions and to provide thoughtful answers.
For his part, manager Aron Winter insisted team spirit is still good, although he acknowledged everyone is upset and disappointed at a league ledger that reads eight games, zero points.
It was 0-0 at the half as the visitors struggled to unlock the beefed-up Toronto defence.
De Guzman shadowed former TFC captain Dwayne De Rosario effectively in the first half. But United moved De Rosario further up the field in the second half, taking him away from his marker.
Reggie Lambe saved the home side in the 54th minute on a corner, clearing the ball off the goal-line for the second game in a row. Replays showed it went off his arm but Toronto went unpunished.
But not for long as D.C. United (5-3-3) struck right back.
Justice was served a minute later when Pontius curled a left-footer past a diving Milos Kocic from just outside the box.
Things went from bad to worse in the second half when Toronto captain Torsten Frings injured his shoulder in a collision with teammate Doneil Henry on a corner. Eventually he hoofed the ball out of bounds in the 66th minute, tossed away the captain's armband and walked immediately to the tunnel.
"I did not mean anything negative when I removed the armband. I was in pain and had to leave the field for treatment," Frings tweeted after the game. "I have too much respect for the club, my teammates and the position for it to mean anything else."
Winter said there was no immediate word on the extent of the injury.
Jeremy Hall, making his debut after previously being sidelined by a sports hernia, replaced him.
Substitute Albanian striker Salihi made it 2-0 in the 75th after Toronto failed to clear a corner properly.
Once again, Winter seemed out of answers. He sat gloomily at the post-match podium, looking as if he was waiting for a root canal.
"Not nice," was the 45-year-old Dutch manager's assessment.
Winter insisted he remains confident and believes in his vision. A turnaround is possible, he added. So are the playoffs.
Asked whether he was worried about his future, he replied: "I'm not worried. I'm not thinking about the future.
"I'm thinking now this moment "OK, what can you do more? What can we change to get those points?'"
He said he felt no desperation. "Of course disappointment that we lost. But not desperation."
What else can he say? Each week, it is becoming a tougher sell.
In his second year at the helm, Winter has won just seven of 41 league games.
Winter faces a tough week. With almost a quarter of the 34-game season gone, he doesn't have a point. And a poor performance Wednesday against the visiting Montreal Impact in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship could leave the team without anything to play for this season.
With Toronto facing a bye in league play next weekend, there is time for Winter to renew his coaching efforts. Or for TFC to bring in a new coach.
"I don't like what's going on," said Johnson. "I know a lot of people don't like what's going on. It's terrible, it's unbearable. I don't know what more to do."
Johnson stressed he would keep doing his part, however.
The stacked defence was all part of TFC's somewhat unfortunately named bid to "keep the zero" — get a clean sheet — as it did in midweek in a drab 0-0 tie in Montreal in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal.
It speaks volumes that Winter has abandoned his possession-based game in order to shore up a porous defence. D.C. United had 62.7 per cent of the ball in the first half.
"I want to bring in an identity, a way to play," Winter said. "Nice football, attractive football and also with winning games."
It has not worked with his current roster, although he has had to endure a cruel list of injuries and bad luck.
Winter, however, insists he can win with the players he has.
But asked to identify a positive from Saturday's game, he pointed to the return of Hall. It didn't seem much to hang your hat on.
The worst start to a season record adds to Toronto's tale of woe in the league record book.
The team already holds the mark for most consecutive minutes without scoring a goal (824 in 2007) and consecutive minutes without scoring to start a season (384, 2007).
Toronto's lone victory this season came March 14 in a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles in CONCACAF Champions League play.
Toronto's combined record this season in MLS, CONCACAF Champions League and Amway Canadian Championship is 1-9-3 (outscored 28-13 coming into the game).
The league's longest losing streak is 12 games, set by the 1999 New York-New Jersey MetroStars.