Toronto FC is desperate to turn things around starting on the road Saturday at Columbus. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Slumping Toronto FC knows time is now, but schedule doesn’t make it easy

TORONTO — After a 3-7-1 start to the season, Toronto FC is desperate to turn things around.

“We have to change everything and try to make the playoffs,” said striker Sebastian Giovinco.

The Italian star actually requested to speak to the media Thursday, which for him is akin to requesting a colonoscopy. But he, like his teammates, knows the time is now for the MLS champions.

Giovinco had no real answers, other than to say everyone — including himself — has made mistakes and needs to do better.

Bowing under the demands of a gruelling CONCACAF Champions League early-season schedule and an undoubtedly related string of injuries, Toronto is feeling frustration.

A boatload of missed opportunities in last week’s 1-0 home loss to FC Dallas only added to their bile.

Greg Vanney’s team will have to reverse course on the road starting Saturday at Columbus. It won’t be easy. Columbus (7-4-3) is unbeaten in seven games (4-0-3) and has not conceded a goal since April 28 — a franchise-record stretch of 495 minutes that ranks as the eighth-longest shutout streak in MLS history.

Both teams are missing players through injury, suspension or national team duties.

The game is the first of five straight for Toronto against East opposition, with Philadelphia, D.C. United, New York City FC and the New York Red Bulls to follow. All but D.C. United are currently ahead of TFC in the standings.

And if Toronto is to climb up the ladder, it will have to do so away from home. Seven of the next nine games are on the road, where TFC is 0-4-0 this season.

Vanney says he still sees good soccer in his team. But he notes that Toronto’s success in the league last year, when it excelled on the road., and its long run in the Champions League this year came in part because of its ability in tough moments to “grind and find a way to get results.”

“I think this team has that,” Vanney said. “What we have to continue to do, because of all the little things that are going on, is to not allow those frustrations to take away our ability to just grind and get things done from game to game.

“I think if we can stay in that mindset, the soccer will naturally come out of this group because the group is very capable. We have very good ideas about what we’re trying to do. We’ve been together (a long time).”

Vanney says he is convinced the team will turn the corner soon.

“I have no doubt, in talking to some of the guys, (that in) four weeks, five weeks this team will be flying again. But a lot of that is predicated towards getting these little frustrations behind us and getting guys back and then big jumps in terms of just where we’re at will start to take place. But we’ve got to grind, we’ve got to really battle through where we’re at right now. That’s the mentality and the ask.”

Vanney likes what he saw in training, saying Wednesday’s session was ultra-competitive.

“If we can take the mindset that we showed in training (Thursday) this weekend, we’ll be OK.”

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