NEWS
09/18/2015 11:43 EDT | Updated 09/18/2016 01:12 EDT

Toronto FC has to take advantage of home stretch as season nears a close

Toronto FC has been unable to get the job done on the road of late, so a five-game stretch of home games is most welcome.

Especially when the first three visitors — Colorado, Chicago, and Philadelphia — are a combined 6-22-13 on the road (23-40-22 overall).

Now Toronto (11-13-4) has to take advantage, starting Saturday against the Rapids (8-10-10).

For a team carrying big names and ever bigger expectations, TFC has wobbled down the stretch. With just six games remaining, it needs to find its equilibrium.

Toronto has lost its last three outings, during which it has been outscored 7-2. Over its last 10 games (3-6-1), it has dropped 20 of 30 available points. It has conceded a whopping 30 goals in 13 games since the start of July. And it has not won away from home since June 6, an 0-5-2 run.

The road record is a concern, given that Toronto now stands seven points below fourth-place Columbus in the Eastern Conference. The fifth- and sixth-place teams open the post-season away from home.

The good news is Toronto isn't in the Western Conference, where it would stand eighth — four points out of the playoffs.

"It's a difficult moment for us," captain Michael Bradley said after Wednesday's 2-0 road loss to New York City FC. "The last three games obviously haven't gone the way we've wanted. There's no sugar-coating that.

"It's in moments like this that you find out the true character and strength of the group. And I have no doubts about that. So everyone just needs to continue to work, continue to look at themselves in terms of the bigger picture and what they're able to do for the team.

"We don't need to worry about teams below us, we don't need to worry about teams above us. We just need to look at ourselves and figure out a way now over the next few games to get ourselves back on track and get some good wins at home."

Colorado is coming off a draw against D.C. United and loss in Vancouver. Prior to that the Rapids won three, lost three and won three.

Offence has been a major problem for Colorado, which has just 26 goals and ranks last in the 20-team league with 0.92 goals scored a game. Pablo Mastroeni's team has scored a league-low eight goals in 13 road games. 

Defence is another story. The Rapids have conceded just 30 goals — 1.07 goals per game, second stingiest in the league this season.  

Toronto, in contrast, ranks 19th in goals conceded per game at 1.75. And while the high-flying Toronto offence has sputtered of late, it still ranks third in goals per game (1.64).

Toronto has fired off 37 shots over the last two games, but only 12 have been on target. That has produced one goal. 

"We've left a lot of opportunities on the table the last two games ... we've got (to) finish and take some pressure off of the group," Toronto coach Greg Vanney lamented.

Conceding the first goal has been an issue.

Frank Lampard's goal Wednesday marked the 19th time this season that Toronto has given up the first goal. Toronto is 3-13-3 when it goes behind first and 8-0-0 when it scores first.

Vanney says that's because his team has been losing its shape as it tries to catch up.

"We're just losing our discipline and our responsibilities because we're chasing that goal." said Vanney.

Saturday marks Toronto's fourth attempt at a franchise-record 12th win of the season.

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press