TORONTO - Toronto FC returned to training Wednesday, looking to steady a ship rocked by injuries, suspensions and porous defensive play.
In the wake of a 3-2 loss to Chicago, Toronto (1-3-0) has now conceded eight goals this season. Only Philadelphia (0-3-2) has leaked more with nine in five games.
"A frustrating weekend," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "Actually a frustrating couple of weeks."
Toronto's average of two goals conceded a game is worst in the league. And it puts Toronto on pace for 68 goals against, one less than Colorado's single-season record of 69 (over 32 games) in 1998.
Improvement is expected once the revolving door on defence stops swinging.
Vanney, a patient man, has yet to take his team to a public woodshed. But he did not mince words Wednesday.
In going over the goals yielded in Chicago, Vanney connected a lot of deficient defensive dots.
"It's not one error, it's three or four collective errors that we know better," Vanney said. "Guys have responsibilities and roles. They need to fulfil them."
One example was Jeff Larentowicz's 68th-minute free kick, which proved to be the winning goal. Fullback Warren Creavalle had been sent off on the play and Vanney said his 10-man team failed to adapt to the free kick. One player is usually designated as a "blocker" — to rush the kicker — but he went elsewhere to fill the hole left by Creavalle.
Couple that with a poorly constructed wall and Chicago was celebrating.
Goalie Joe Bendik has 19 saves this season, second only to San Jose's David Bingham (20 in five games). But even Bendik did not get a pass Wednesday.
"I think he's made some good saves and he's not made some saves that I think he would be the first one to say that he probably should save," said Vanney. "Joe is a part of the defence, as we are all part of the defence as a team, and we've got to be better.
"We've allowed too many goals and too many what I would call fairly easy goals because we've had the right number of people round the ball or around the play to deal with it and we haven't."
Bendik, the strong silent type who looks at reporters like a cat eyeing a mouse, described his play as "a work in progress every day."
But he is clearly frustrated by a defence that has failed to deal with crosses, a longtime Achilles heel for the franchise.
"It takes a long time to get over these type of games," he said.
Bendik offered no excuses, falling on his own sword.
"The opportunities they had were a whole lot of counter-attacks," he said of Chicago. "And that to me should be something the backline and the 'keeper should be able to deal with and I didn't think we did a very good job of it."
"We have work to do," he added.
Toronto has a bye week to get it right before visiting FC Dallas on April 18, the fifth of seven straight away league games due to ongoing BMO Field renovations.
Vanney hopes to have a healthy roster by then, with starting centre backs Steven Caldwell and Damien Perquis available for selection.
Changes may be in order.
"First and foremost we have to have options," Vanney said. "We've got to get guys healthy over the next week. And then guys need to really compete for those spot. But yeah it's definitely a consideration. You can't have mistakes over and over from an individual basis. And other guys maybe have to get opportunities."
A new fullback is needed, with Creavalle suspended next time out.
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