Chicago, Toronto missing the spark

BY foxsports • September 13, 2010

Do Toronto FC and the Chicago Fire want to make the MLS playoffs?

It’s a fair question considering the disappointing performances both teams delivered on Saturday, and the unacceptable slides both teams find themselves in. Septembers in MLS are when teams start to get serious about making playoff pushes, but instead of making pushes, TFC and Chicago have put together identical five-match winless streaks.

Take Toronto FC, which has been one of the toughest home teams in MLS and badly needed three points at BMO Field this weekend. Taking on lowly D.C. United, holders of the league’s worst record, Toronto had a chance to close in on an idle Seattle and a San Jose team facing red-hot FC Dallas.

A late-season collapse wouldn’t come as much of a surprise for Toronto, which has never made the playoffs and memorably dropped a 5-0 loss to New York in last season’s regular season finale. That loss was memorable because Toronto could have reached the playoffs with a win and because the Red Bulls were the worst team in the league.

Things looked good for Toronto as recently as a month ago, but its own 0-3-2 slide, including a pair of home losses, has TFC reeling. The team’s remaining MLS schedule looks manageable, with only one of its remaining six games coming against any of the league’s top five teams, but with CONCACAF Champions League fixtures woven into the mix, Toronto will face a grueling stretch run that will test the team’s depth (and let's face it, if you can't beat D.C. United at home, no games are easy).

Can either team turn it around? It isn’t looking good, especially not when the teams they are chasing are looking better, and not when Kansas City has emerged to challenge them both as a potential Eastern Conference playoff contender.

Chicago and Toronto still have time to turn things around, but if they don’t start showing some urgency, and start playing like jobs are on the line (which they are), both teams will find themselves making wholesale changes while eight other teams start preparing for the playoffs.

Ives Galarcep is a senior writer for covering Major League Soccer and the U.S. national team.

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