TORONTO – All season long, Preki hasn’t been one to make excuses to account for his team’s poor play.
That was until Saturday.
TFC’s exasperated coach sounded off in the postgame news conference, naming a litany of reasons to explain his team’s demoralizing 1-0 loss Saturday at home to D.C. United — the league's basement-dwellers — at a critical point in the season.
A crowded schedule, inopportune injuries, lack of fitness, underperforming players and even team and media officials unwilling to move kickoff times were all singled out as culprits.
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“We really didn’t have any legs in us, we looked tired and I don’t always like to make excuses, but [playing] a third game of the week and playing at four o’clock when the other team is waiting for you the whole week," Preki said, "I think who schedules these games has to look at this very hard because I’m really, really disappointed."
Following a 1-0 loss at FC Dallas last Saturday, Toronto held Chicago to a scoreless draw on Wednesday in Bridgeview, Ill.
Captain Dwayne De Rosario said that after Wednesday's tie, he’d treat every game like a playoff. And it looked as though he and his teammates would follow suit when he hit the post in the fourth minute following an impressive solo effort.
Then the fatigue set in, Preki said. After the strong start, Toronto fizzled.
Of nine shots on goal overall, TFC only managed one on D.C. United goalkeeper Troy Perkins. That came in the 84th minute.
Instead of building momentum off Wednesday's road tie, TFC let slip a golden opportunity to come within one point of eighth-place San Jose for the final playoff spot.
The players didn’t buy into the excuses.
“It’s excuses — I mean everyone has a tough schedule," goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. "You just gotta go through it.
"We had a tough game against Chicago where we laid it on the line, same with Dallas, but I think the result we got in Chicago, where we got the point, I think that should kind of lift us up.”
Defender Dan Gargan agreed, but he hinted that some players still had effort to give.
“I don’t know [if fatigue's] an excuse," Gargan said. "We all knew what we had to do today whether we’re tired or not. We still needed to come out and perform. We didn’t do that."
Regardless, the facts of the team’s recent downward spiral aren’t pretty.
TFC are winless in their last six games and have been shutout five times. They’ve failed to score in four straight games and have hit the back of the goal just once in their last six MLS games.
The next two games will likely decide both their MLS and CONCACAF Champions League campaigns. First is a CCL date Tuesday at Real Salt Lake followed by a trip to Houston on Sept. 18. Then comes a potential do-or-die showdown against San Jose on Sept. 25 at BMO Field.
Whether it's fatigue, a lack of effort or another excuse, TFC will need to dig deep to keep their season alive.