Despite initially blowing a 3-0 lead against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, Toronto FC's response was in stark contrast to the rest of their 2018 season, as Greg Vanney's side fired back twice for a 5-3 win.
But TFC's show of resilience - a reminder of their championship season last year - likely came too late. With the Montreal Impact also winning on Saturday, their mountainous nine-point lead over Toronto for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot became even harder to overcome.
But Montreal isn't the only issue for TFC. Both D.C. United and the New England Revolution sit between Toronto and the playoffs, and the schedules for each of the four teams don't appear to favor the Reds.
Here's a look at the remaining matches for each of the postseason hopefuls:
|Sept. 29||(H) Impact||11-14-3|
|Oct. 7||(H) Fire||6-15-6|
|Oct. 13||(H) Dallas||14-6-7|
|Oct. 17||(H) TFC||7-14-6|
|Oct. 21||(H) NYCFC||14-8-7|
|Oct. 28||(A) Fire||6-15-6|
Toronto needs D.C. United to lose twice to stand a chance, but United's remaining schedule poses some problems for the Reds. That upcoming Sept. 29 matchup against Montreal means TFC can't gain ground on both teams unless they draw. Furthermore, Wayne Rooney and Co. will end the regular season on a lengthy homestand, with a trip to the bottom-dwelling Chicago Fire on the last day being their only game away from Audi Field. Among the four teams in question, Ben Olsen's side arguably possesses the most favorable end-of-season schedule.
|Sept. 22||(H) Fire||6-15-6|
|Sept. 29||(A) TFC||7-14-6|
|Oct. 6||(A) Atlanta||16-5-6|
|Oct. 13||(H) Orlando||7-17-3|
|Oct. 18||(A) Real Salt Lake||13-10-5|
|Oct. 28||(H) Impact||11-14-3|
If there's a realistic, immediate goal for TFC, it's catching the Revolution first, and then working from there. With a match at home against New England on the horizon, the Reds stand a moderate chance at orchestrating a six-point swing, but they'll need to keep pace before then.
|Sept. 22||(H) NYCFC||14-8-7|
|Sept. 29||(A) D.C. United||9-11-8|
|Oct. 6||(H) Crew||12-8-7|
|Oct. 21||(H) TFC||7-14-6|
|Oct. 28||(A) Revolution||8-10-9|
Montreal's grip on the final playoff spot isn't as strong as you'd believe at first glance, even after a dominating win over Philadelphia on Saturday. For one, the Impact will play one fewer match than New England, D.C., and Toronto, and three of their last four games are against that same trio. But while that's perilous for the Impact, the inverse isn't true for TFC. The Reds can't settle for anything less than a win in their 401 derby visit to Montreal, but in all likelihood, they'll need D.C. and the Revolution to play out stalemates against the Impact, too.
|Sept. 22||(A) Red Bulls||17-7-5|
|Sept. 29||(H) Revolution||8-10-10|
|Oct. 6||(H) Whitecaps||11-10-7|
|Oct. 17||(A) D.C. United||9-11-8|
|Oct. 21||(A) Impact||12-14-3|
|Oct. 28||(H) Atlanta||17-5-6|
Mercifully for TFC fans, they can already mentally prepare to miss out if the team fails to earn three points against New England at home later this month, which would all but confirm the postseason as a mathematical impossibility. But even in a general sense, too much has to fall in line for the defending champions to save themselves.
Even if Greg Vanney's side miraculously wins out, there's a real chance it still won't finish higher than eighth. And really, it's tough to imagine anyone other than the Impact or D.C. United grabbing the last playoff spot.
In short: There's always next season.