Offensively challenged Toronto FC faces tough test

Toronto FC is missing its top scorer and finding the net is becoming a major problem. Visiting one of the stingiest defensive teams in MLS may not help.

Toronto looks for its first win in more than a month Monday night when it faces Real Salt Lake, which seeks a fourth consecutive shutout.

TFC (6-6-4) is 0-2-2 in its last four league games, scoring only two goals.

The team came up empty in its last MLS game on July 19, misfiring on 11 shots - including a second-half penalty kick by Amado Guevara - in a scoreless tie with league-worst San Jose.

Toronto, which is 1-6-0 on the road, hasn't managed more than one goal in a game since its last win on June 14 - 3-1 over Colorado.

The scoring problems have been compounded with the loss of forward Danny Dichio, the team leader with five goals. Dichio is out indefinitely with a concussion suffered July 1 during a 1-0 loss to Vancouver of the USL Division 1 in the Canadian Championship.

Things appeared to be improving Tuesday when Rohan Ricketts scored in the 15th minute against Montreal, but Toronto gave up a goal 11 minutes later and settled for a 1-all tie with the USL's Impact. The draw cost TFC what appeared to be a certain spot in this fall's CONCACAF Champions League.

"I think it's blatantly obvious what we need to do," Toronto coach John Carver said. "We don't need one striker, we need two strikers and we need somebody to put the ball in the back of the net."

Carver will likely give 16-year-old Abdus Ibrahim a third consecutive start overall. The forward has one goal in two MLS games since being acquired from Dallas for a conditional draft pick on June 13. Ibrahim was a second-round selection by Dallas at the 2007 MLS SuperDraft, and is a member of the United States Under-20 national team.

"I can't rely on a young kid to go out there and perform," Carver said. "I've got to protect him and look after him, so yes, we need more than one (forward), it's pretty obvious."

Toronto is 2-0-1 against Salt Lake (6-6-6), including a 1-0 win on April 19 in the only matchup this year.

RSL, though, has been outstanding defensively of late, posting three consecutive shutouts to go 1-0-2, including a scoreless tie at Chicago on July 19.

It has given up only 19 goals on the season to rank among the league leaders, but its 20 goals scored are near the bottom.

The club has been impressive at Rice-Eccles Stadium, going 5-0-5 while outscoring opponents 16-6.

RSL's staunch defensive play has made things very simple for goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who has recorded shutouts in the last three games while making two saves in each contest.

He ranks among the MLS leaders with a 1.06 goals-against average and seven shutouts, matching his total from all of last year.

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