Toronto FC v D.C. United

Winter: Move along. Nothing to see here. No coaching crisis, thank you.

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A very hot seat is still just a hot seat, so I’m at a loss to describe what Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter is sitting on. Maybe his chair’s become so hot that it’s cold? Like white hot, if that’s a real something. Once you reach 400 Kelvin, perhaps your nerves seer and you can’t feel a thing, like the constant boots in the derrière Reds supporters are using to coax their coach to the door.

Those kicks will come more often if Toronto can’t beat Montreal tomorrow. The teams drew 0-0 last week in Montreal and return to BMO Field for the second leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal. The winner will presumably face Vancouver, who won 2-0 at FC Edmonton (NASL) last week.

As Sportsnet’s John Molinaro notes, being asked about your job before every shift has to get old. For Winter, though, the answers remain the same:

Asked directly after Tuesday’s team practice if he felt his job was on the line based on winning Wednesday’s match against Montreal, Winter simply and confidently answered, “No.”

Does he remain confident that [Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment], the club’s owners, will remain patient with him and keep him as coach even if TFC loses to the Impact?

“Yes. Yes. But I don’t think we’ll lose tomorrow,” the Dutchman said.

Reflex one: What else is he supposed to say? Reflex two: Something less obstinate?

For all we know, though, Winter could be responding with complete sincerity. He may have had breakfast with President/CEO Richard Peddie and been assured his job was safe. “We know those defenders are bums, Aron,” my hypothetical Peddie says, assuring his man. “We have to do right by you before you can do right by us.”

Of course, it’s possible MLSE has done enough, hence the speculation about Winter’s job. The money side backs that up.

So does some of the circumstantial evidence. We’re hearing about a lot of behind the scenes fissures, whether it be rumors of eyes not meeting eyes between the various front office factions or the need for clear-the-air meetings between players and staff.

The latter happened on Monday, according to Molinaro’s reporting. Eric Avila – Toronto’s best player thus far, and somebody who’s becoming increasingly outspoken – confessed the team was drifting. They needed a pow wow to refocus:

Midfielder Eric Avila suggested that a clearing-the-air meeting on Monday between the players and coaching staff has the club back on the right track, and that everybody is on the same page.

“Before the season started we had some sort of identity of where we wanted to go and once the season started we lost it a little. The meeting helped us out in a way where we’re back on track (and know) who we are,” Avila stated.

Check out John’s work for more on the alchemy TFC’s turning to for their panacea. Tomorrow’s fun kicks off at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)