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Lowly Toronto FC limps into second Leagues Cup match after 5-0 drubbing – Toronto |


Terry Dunfield experienced some tough times as a player with Toronto FC.

The last month as interim head coach might have been even worse.

The former Canadian international has suffered through five straight losses and watched his team get outscored 12-0 since being elevated from the club’s under-17 program to the top job on a trial basis after Bob Bradley was fired June 26.

The blame for a disastrous season that started with so much promise — TFC owned Major League Soccer’s highest payroll heading into 2023, with a locker room accented by Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi — doesn’t fall at Dunfield’s feet.

He’s barely through the door, but a long cast of culprits along with poor roster construction, questionable tactics, uninspired play, injuries, infighting and a painfully brittle psyche have all contributed to an ugly 3-11-10 league record.

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A new low, and 2023 has provided a long list to choose from, came in Wednesday’s stunning 5-0 road annihilation to New York City FC in the inaugural Leagues Cup competition on a miserable night where players’ heart and commitment were called into question from the outside.

“I don’t think we threw the towel in by any means,” a shell-shocked Dunfield told reporters in the immediate aftermath.

“I don’t think the players gave up.”

The fragile MLS side will — once again — look to pick up the pieces Sunday when Atlas FC of Mexico’s Liga MX visits BMO Field for both clubs’ second group game of the tournament.

With a minus-5 goal differential through one match, Toronto heads into the weekend sitting at the bottom of the two-league, three-country, 47-team competition that runs through Aug. 19.

Atlas leads the three-team pool — the top two advance to the knockout round — after beating NYCFC 1-0 in the opener.

“We all have to be accountable for the performance,” Dunfield said following Wednesday’s loss. “I don’t think you can hide from 5-0.”

The 41-year-old from Vancouver knows a thing or two about facing the music during difficult moments in Toronto.

He played 56 times for the club across all competitions from 2011 to 2013, including 30 starts in 2012 when TFC finished last in MLS with just five victories from 34 matches.

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This season might rank even lower for an organization that won MLS Cup in 2017, and reached the final in both 2016 and 2019.

Its current goal drought standing at 529 minutes, Toronto has been thumped 17-1 over the last seven matches, is winless in 10 (0-7-3), and has one victory in 16 games (1-11-4) since late April.

Dunfield said TFC’s backroom staff will continue working to help give the players their best chance at success, but added: “Part of it is down to a little bit or resilience — that when we do take a punch, that we are able to take it ? and be brave.”

Player availability has been a major issue for Dunfield since taking over from Bradley.

Insigne has made just 11 MLS starts in 2023 because of various injuries, including playing just one half since the coaching change, Bernardeschi was suspended for two of Dunfield’s five games in charge, and a number of other key contributors have been away on international duty.

Changes to a woefully underperforming roster have also begun.

Canadian striker Ayo Akinola was loaned to the San Jose Earthquakes earlier this week, while veteran defender Matt Hedges was traded to Austin FC. The club then announced Friday it had signed forward Cassius Mailula from his South African club.

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Through it all, Dunfield, who was promised at least a four-match runway as interim coach following Bradley’s dismissal, has kept pushing forward.

“We’re not going to give up on you,” he said of his message to the players after that NYCFC horror show. “We’ll continue to live our principles, which are staying positive, creating a high-performance environment, and being purposeful with everything we do.”

Guadalajara-based Atlas, meanwhile, sits seventh in Mexico’s top league after three games with a 1-1-1 record to go along with that 1-0 victory to open its Leagues Cup campaign.

“It’s important we continue to represent MLS,” Dunfield said of Sunday’s tall task on TFC’s home field. “We’ll be ready to go.”

But will they score?

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press


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