New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood, left, fights for the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio during an MLS soccer match in Harrison, N.J., on November 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Experienced Toronto FC ready to take on upstart Nashville SC in playoff action

Experienced Toronto FC ready to take on upstart Nashville SC in playoff action

Coach Greg Vanney has a simple message for his players as Toronto FC prepares for a playoff run: just be yourself.

“There’s no need to try to do more because it’s a playoff game,” Vanney said on a video call Monday. “It’s still a soccer game, you still win it the same way.”

What the club has been doing this year has been working.

Toronto finished the regular season with a 13-5-5 record and narrowly missed out on the Supporter’s Shield awarded annually to the team that finishes atop the Major League Soccer standings.

The club struggled slightly to close out the campaign, dropping three of its last four games, but has had nearly two weeks to train and recover since finishing the regular season with a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.

TFC will open its playoffs against a new foe on Tuesday, coming up against expansion side Nashville SC.

It will be the first-ever meeting for the two teams, following after a regular season that saw repeated matchups between clubs in a bid to reduce travel and potential exposure to COVID-19.

“In some ways, it’s nice. I feel like we’ve played so many teams so many times and then we played a lot of teams not at all,” Vanney said. “So I think it’s a little bit better that there’s a lack of familiarity instead of over familiarity at this point.”

Nashville finished the regular season seventh in the East with a 8-7-8 record, and beat fellow league rookies Inter Miami CF 3-0 on Friday to advance through the play-in round.

It was another clean sheet for a team that gave up just 22 goals in regular-season play.

“(Nashville’s) a good team, a stingy team,” Vanney said. “They make it difficult to play against them. And they obviously have players who can make some plays.”

TFC has a big advantage in experience. The club has reached the playoffs for the fifth time in six years and advanced to three of the last four MLS Cup finals, beating Seattle in 2017 and losing to the Sounders in 2016 and last season.

The fact that the core group has a lot of experience together is important, but it doesn’t guarantee a result, said veteran midfielder Michael Bradley.

“No two teams are exactly the same, no two situations are exactly the same,” said the TFC captain, who’s played 16 post-season games for Toronto.

“But you’d be dumb if you didn’t find ways to draw on the collective experience of the group. And I think we’ll do that. We’ve always done that. But again, we know it doesn’t count for anything when the whistle blows.”

When it comes to the playoffs, however, “everything gets thrown out the window,” and that’s especially true in MLS because of the knockout format, Bradley said.

Every player on every team starts the game believing they can win, no matter what happened in the regular season, he added.

“No one holds anything back. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing at home or away — even more so no with stadiums that are either empty or just a few fans. It doesn’t matter recent form, any of that stuff,” Bradley said. “It’s 90 minutes and you have two teams that are playing for their season.”

The first weekend of MLS playoff action saw some surprises, including No. 6 Dallas FC taking down the No. 3 Portland Timbers in an extended shootout. It was the third game to go to penalty kicks in the post-season’s opening weekend.

“It’s been intriguing,” Vanney said. “Multiple games have had their moments of shenanigans or other types of excitement or other things that come into the equation just because the emotions are high, everything is on the line and things start to get a little bit fuzzy sometimes. But it’s been fun to watch, as the playoffs always are.”

NASHVILLE SC (8-7-8) AT TORONTO FC (13-5-5)

Tuesday, Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium

ON THE ROAD: Toronto FC returned to its temporary home of East Hartford, Conn., on Sunday. Vanney said the team will remain in the U.S. for the duration of the playoffs.

MAN DOWN: Nashville midfielder Anibal Godoy left Friday’s game with a hamstring injury and is not expected to play on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2020.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

soccer

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta identifies 573 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths on Saturday

There are currently 9,727 active cases of the virus in the province

A firetruck sits in front of a home on Harvey Close in Red Deer Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Firefighters respond to Red Deer fire

Red Deer firefighters responded to a blaze in the north part of… Continue reading

(Courtesy photo)
Red Deer rental prices drop slightly

Renting an apartment in Red Deer became slightly cheaper last month. Rentals.ca… Continue reading

Rylee Trippel was last seen Friday. (Photo contributed by RCMP)
Red Deer RCMP looking for missing teen

Police are looking for a teen who was last seen in the… Continue reading

The Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60,000 in 2020. (Photo courtesy Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Facebook)
Red Deer Outreach Centre’s Adopt a Family program raised $60K in 2020

The executive director of the Red Deer Outreach Centre says she is… Continue reading

Former Alberta Premier Rachel Notley shakes hands with Joel Ward, former Red Deer College President and CEO, as Notley announces that the college is on the path to grant degrees. Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan says university status is not a necessary condition for offering degrees. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Future of Red Deer University increasingly uncertain

MLA’s college update says RDC more like SAIT and NAIT than a university

RCMP say missing teen Hope Tivendale has been found. (File photo by Advocate staff)
No foul play suspected after burned body of homeless person found in North Vancouver

VANCOUVER — A burned body, believed to be of a homeless person,… Continue reading

The central zone experienced a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases Thursday, rising from 454 to 508 active cases over the past 24 hours, with 10 people in hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Spartan Bioscience says Health Canada has approved its rapid COVID-19 test

TORONTO — An Ottawa company says it’s received approval from Health Canada… Continue reading

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole defends decision to back, then oust, Sloan

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole says he was once willing to… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault pauses as he speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Non-essential travel ban would violate Constitution but courts might allow it: expert

MONTREAL — Fear that Quebecers will catch a new variant of COVID-19… Continue reading

A woman walks outside the Roberta Place Long Term Care home in Barrie, Ont. on Monday, January 18, 2021. The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in Canada has underscored the need for increased public funding for home care, advocates say. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
COVID-19 deaths in long-term care reveal need for home supports: advocates

VANCOUVER — The devastating toll of COVID-19 on long-term care residents in… Continue reading

A Chinese flag is illuminated by sunshine in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday, September 22, 2016. China is threatening retaliation against Canada after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned a new security law giving Beijing more control over Hong Kong.. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Diplomats contact Canadian held for over 2 years in China

BEIJING — Canadian officials have met online with former diplomat Michael Kovrig,… Continue reading

Marc Gold (centre) stands with senators André Pratte (left) and Peter Harder before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate on Parliament Hill, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Senator urges study of vexing barriers to using secret information in court cases

OTTAWA — A Senate committee should examine the hurdles that make it… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Winnipeg ticket holder wins Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — A ticket holder from Winnipeg won Friday night’s whopping $60… Continue reading

Most Read