TORONTO — Greg Vanney has encountered better times in his five years as head coach of Toronto FC.
After Toronto won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian Championship in 2017, the team failed to make the playoffs last year and has endured an eight-game (0-5-3) winless streak in the previous six weeks.
The 45-year-old Virginian hopes to see his club celebrate his 200th game on the sidelines with Toronto with a win against Atlanta United FC at BMO Field on Wednesday. But Vanney knows his team, with six regulars missing because of injury and international duty, will be in tough against the defending champions.
"It feels like 400 games, at least in the last year," Vanney said on Tuesday.
"This is the club I was given the opportunity to cut my teeth as a head coach. Even though we've had a tough go over the better part of a year, the things that we have accomplished with seven or eight trophies between Eastern Conference championships, Canadian champions and an MLS Cup, it's (been) a good ride, 200 games."
Vanney's side has scored only five goals during the winless streak and has been blanked on four occasions, including a messy 3-0 loss in Dallas on Saturday.
The poor outing in Dallas resulted in a 40-minute team meeting between Vanney, his staff and the players. The coach felt an in-depth chat among his players would allow them to park the loss in Texas and board the plane home thinking about Atlanta during a short turnaround.
"For me, it was one of these games that was frustrating for the group," Vanney said. "I wanted to make sure that when we left the locker room, we had discussed the game. We had discussed some things that had gone on and things we needed to be addressed, so we could leave that locker room having conversations about the next game and not carrying this game for two more days or three more days and bleeding into our next game.”
There were frustration and anger mixed in among the players after the loss in Dallas. But the group remains upbeat, even though Toronto will once again be without Gold Cup participants Jozy Altidore (United States), Michael Bradley (U.S), Ashtone Morgan (Canada) and Jonathan Osorio (Canada).
"I think everybody’s together and everybody said what they had to say in that meeting," Toronto forward Jordan Hamilton said. "Maybe guys had different opinions.
"But we're all professionals. Nobody wants to lose. From that aspect, it's difficult. From a collective standpoint, the team knows we're all capable and what we have to do. At the end of the day, it's just producing on game day."
This game pits the past two MLS titleholders against each other. Toronto dropped a 2-0 decision in Atlanta on May 8.
"These are the games you look forward to, playing against a team that strives to be the best as much as you do," Toronto defender Justin Morrow said.
"Every time we play against them, it seems to be pretty intense."
ATLANTA UNITED FC (8-5-2) AT TORONTO FC (5-7-4)
Wednesday, BMO Field
HEALTH REPORT: Toronto defenders Auro and Chris Mavinga are expected to miss Wednesday's outing with hamstring injuries. But they have returned to training. Coach Greg Vanney expects both to see action at D.C. United on Saturday.
OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS: While Vanney's side has struggled, Atlanta has reeled off four wins in a row and nine of its last 11 to climb into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta has scored 11 goals during the winning streak with four from substitute Brandon Vazquez in the last two games. The 20-year-old centre forward is expected to make his first start on Wednesday.
WESTBERG HONOURED: Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg was named to the MLS team of the week for his brilliant performance in Dallas. Despite the 3-0 defeat, the native of France made nine saves on 12 shots. It took Dallas until the 41st minute to solve Westberg.