Toronto FC midfielder Alonso Coello said his team has kept its focus on snapping their lengthy winless streak rather than reports that Canadian men's national team John Herdman is in talks to take over the struggling Major League Soccer club.
TFC management says its head coach search continues to be an ongoing process and refuses to comment on the Herdman report from the Athletic that also speculated Queen's Park Rangers manager Mark Warburton, D.C. United assistant Carl Robinson and Bobby Smyrniotis, skipper of Forge FC of the Canadian Premier League were under consideration.
TFC (3-12-10) is winless in its last 12 MLS games (0-9-3) and has just one win in its last 18 outings (1-13-4) in all competitions. TFC visit the Columbus Crew (11-7-6) on Saturday.
"I don't think we're focused on that," the 23-year-old Coello said when asked about how his team was dealing with the Herdman speculation after Thursday's team training session.
"As of now, I think the things that are going on on the field are way too important for us to pay attention to the other stuff. As players, our job is to go out there and perform on the field, no matter what's going on off the field."
The outing in Columbus will be the eighth under interim head coach Terry Dunfield since the former Canadian international midfielder took over for Bob Bradley, who was fired on June 26.
TFC has gone 0-7-0 under the 41-year-old Dunfield, including two losses in away League Cup games to New York City (5-0) and Atlas (1-0).
In TFC's latest game, a 3-2 loss at home to CF Montreal last Sunday, a pair of second-half goals from Federico Bernardeschi broke a 685-minute scoring drought for Toronto.
"The results haven't been going our way," Coello said when asked how he felt TFC has performed under Dunfield.
"We've had some good stretches of playing in which we have shown what kind of team we want to be and how we want to play to start getting some results. Obviously, the sooner that we start getting them, the better."
The unsuccessful comeback against Montreal, which saw TFC fall behind 2-0 without a shot on target in the first half, was the fifth one-goal loss under Dunfield.
"There's been a lot of kicks to the groin," Dunfield said. "But it's part of the process when you're as broken as we were. This is how you come together, and we need to take some of these punches and keep moving forward.
"Columbus will be another opportunity to keep pushing. I don't think we expected these many kicks to the groin. That's why it's difficult.
"We're not going to hide from them or review it, but that's why it's tough. But there are some positives in there for sure."
TFC sits 14th in the 15-team Eastern Conference, a whopping 13 points out of the playoffs with nine regular-season matches remaining. Six years removed from its 2017 MLS Cup championship season, this would be the second successive campaign TFC would miss the post-season.
TFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, 34, underwent successful surgery to repair his left fractured hand in Atlanta this week. The surgery means the U.S. international will miss six to eight weeks.
He suffered the recent setback in training last week and will remain in Atlanta for the first part of his recovery.
With Johnson sidelined, El Salvador international Tomas Romero is expected to continue his starting role against Columbus with newcomer Luka Gavran as his backup.
Although injured midfielder Latif Blessing was back training with his teammates on Thursday, he remains unavailable, as does injured defender Cristian Gutierrez and forward Adama Diomande.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 24, 2023.
Tim Wharnsby, The Canadian Press