Skip to main content


Herdman challenges Toronto FC to stop leaking goals in final minutes of games

Toronto FC John Herdman - The Canadian Press

Looking to end Toronto FC's five-game winless streak (0-3-2), coach John Herdman is challenging his team to finish games as well as it starts them.

Fourteen of the 32 goals Toronto has conceded this season have come in the last 15 minutes of games. Only San Jose, which languishes in the league basement at 3-13-2, has given up more in the dying minutes with 18.

Toronto (7-9-3) conceded in the 90th minute in a 2-1 loss to visiting Nashville SC on Wednesday and in the 89th minute of last Saturday's 4-1 loss to Chicago at BMO Field. Before that, TFC leaked goals in the 79th and 95th minutes in a 2-2 draw at D.C. United on June 1. And visiting Cincinnati scored in the 93rd minute to edge Toronto 4-3 on May 25.

"I think in every game we've played, we've started strong," said Herdman. "We have a real problem with these last 30 minutes of games. And unless we fix that, we're going to find ourselves in a tough spot."

It doesn't help that Toronto has not been taking its own scoring chances. TFC could have been ahead 5-0 at halftime of the Nashville game. Instead it went into the break with just a one-goal lead, which disappeared in the second half.

"We've got to finish teams off. It's that simple," said Herdman.

The first step on that mission comes Saturday at the New York Red Bulls (8-4-7).

It won't be easy

Rallying from a 2-0 deficit for a 2-2 mid-week draw at CF Montreal, the Red Bulls have lost just two of their last eight outings (4-2-2) and sit third in the Eastern Conference — four places and seven points ahead of Toronto.

The Red Bulls are currently on an 11-match unbeaten run at home across all competitions, the third-longest streak in franchise history. And with a 5-0-3 record at Red Bull Arena this season, the New Yorkers are one of only three MLS teams yet to lose at home, along with Los Angeles FC and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Not to mention the Red Bulls are unbeaten in their last nine league meetings with Toronto, which includes six straight wins at Red Bull Arena. New York is 16-2-2 against Toronto at home.

After opening the season at 6-4-1, Toronto has won just one of its last eight matches (1-5-2) in league play. TFC is 2-4-3 on the road this season and has won just one of its last seven away games (1-4-2).

Still, Red Bulls coach Sandro Schwarz called the game a "big challenge," saying he has "a lot of respect for the quality (of Toronto), how they play."

Disciplinary issues have not helped Toronto in the dying minutes of games. TFC finished the D.C. game with nine men after both Federico Bernardeschi and Nicksoen Gomis were both sent off for second yellows.

Injuries and lack of depth in the squad have not helped either, with some starters unavailable or forced to play limited minutes in their return to play. The bench has been limited, with few finishing options.

In contrast, Nashville's reinforcements helped turn the game tide Wednesday with Sean Davis and Tyler Boyd coming on to start the second half.

Toronto's subs did not have the same impact. Herdman said data showed that his players' metres per minute "fell off a cliff in the 60th minute."

"That was the scary thing for us. We've just got to show more resilience in that time where the team feels like it's suffering. And the players coming in have got to be able to add the increase in metres per minute and intensity."

The Red Bulls, who have scored eight goals in the last 15 minutes of games this season, will be without their leading scorer with attacking midfielder Lewis Morgan with Scotland at Euro 2024.

Captain Emil Forsberg, second in scoring with eight goals, is questionable with a foot injury. Schwarz says the Swede won't start but may be an option off the bench.

Teenage forward Julian Hall turned heads mid-week with the tying goal in Montreal just 53 seconds after coming in off the bench in the 88th minute. Hall, who has played 31 minutes in four substitute appearances this season, becomes the second-youngest goal-scorer in league history at 16 years 87 days. Freddy Adu holds the record at14 years 320 days.

Asked if Hall might make his first league start Saturday, Schwarz replied: "I'm sure he will play. We will see how many minutes."

Toronto captain Jonathan Osorio and fullback/wingback Richie Laryea are away with Canada at Copa America while goalkeeper Sean Johnson is with the U.S. Defender Shane O'Neill, wingback Tyrese Spicer and midfielder Brandon Servania are out injured.


Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 21, 2024.