Imbalanced MLS schedule leads to deceptive ranking of Toronto FC
New York Red Bulls' Thierry Henry (right) battles for the ball with Toronto FC's Steven Caldwell during second half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday May 17, 2014. (Chris Young / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 23, 2014 7:50AM EDT
TORONTO -- It's Week 12 in Major League Soccer and Toronto FC is 4-4-0.
The Philadelphia Union, FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo have played 13 games while New York and Seattle have had 12. Toronto and the Los Angeles Galaxy, with nine games, are the only clubs in the 19-team league not to have played at least 10 matches so far.
"It's very frustrating because we're in a false position," said Toronto captain Steven Caldwell. "A very big if in the MLS, but if we win all our games in hand, we're on top of the league.
"We're not denying we've had a little bit of an up-and-down start but we've shown glimpses of real quality and we've had games we've let ourselves down. If we had played similar games to the rest of the teams, I'm pretty sure we'd be very near the top if not on the top. So it's slightly disappointing but we'll get our chance to address that when we play more games than other teams. We've just got to be ready for that.
"We've had injuries and we're losing Michael (Bradley to the World Cup) for a longish period. It might be a blessing in disguise."
With 12 points, Toronto is currently seventh in the East -- two points and two places out of the playoff picture. But its rate of 1.5 points a game is good for third in the conference (and fifth in the league).
Toronto's weather is part of the reason for the lack of early games. Toronto had a bye the opening weekend, for example.
The Amway Canadian Championship also has not helped the calendar, taking up four midweek games. And television, no doubt, played its part in scheduling with more games saved for later on, when hockey is over.
Including Friday night's game in Kansas City, Toronto has three more league games before MLS takes a two-week break in mid-June during the World Cup. When play resumes, Toronto has 23 league games remaining.
In contrast, Philadelphia will have 18.
For Toronto manager Ryan Nelsen, the schedule has pluses and minuses.
Injured players have had a chance to heal. But a team that brought in a half-dozen starters during the off-season needs time to mesh on the field.
"This team needs more games than anyone other team, to tell you the truth," said Nelsen. "Just because that's how you get to know each other. And a lot of players weren't there in pre-season -- they were injured or hadn't arrived or different kind of stories.
"So we kind of started our pre-season in away during the season. So we started a few steps back. The more games, the better for these guys. ... That's what we're looking forward to."