TFC 2014

A Perfectly Sporting Storm


 One Trick Ponies

One thing seems clear at this point in the season. Toronto FC are one trick tactical ponies.

First half, TFC throw down a high-pressure defence. The plan is to create turn-overs. Then, the Reds deploy thoroughbreds for quick breaks and counter-attacks. This style suits Jermain Dafoe just fine. And when Gilberto finally finds his bearings, he looks good for the work too.

Mostly, it means TFC never equal their opponents in terms of time in possession. Whatever you think of that statistical variable, the truth is that TFC are a reactive force. If they were thieves, they’d prefer bumping marks on the street and lifting wallets over carefully orchestrating larger heists.

When that approach goes well, TFC leave for half with a lead. The Reds usually return with a phase two plan. They turtle up on D, absorbing attacks and countering when they can to relieve pressure.

In cases where there’s no lead to defend after half, TFC’s game gets cagey. That high-pressure D comes at the cost of fatigue. And if the counter attacks can’t get results, there isn’t much more to lean on.

Facing an organized defence, TFC usually punt and run on the flanks. It seems like a low-odds tactic.

Reds wingers (less one just traded) now seem capable of some fancy dance and decent service. Most of the time, these attacks lack shape and creativity. Individual efforts may prevail, but as a team there seems to be little uniting disparate talents moving forward. The Reds can move the ball outside, but usually cannot convert that into real threat.

TFC have shown little taste for building up from the back. Most balls are lobbed forward in the hope of attackers holding it up or, most often, the opponents coughing it back up to them.

It’s a dull slog for spectators. Surely with all the game reels available now, it’s also no secret for TFC’s opponents.

I’m trying to give Ryan Nelsen the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s keeping it super simple and consistent. Perhaps he’s waiting until there’s enough cohesion to introduce variations and tactical shifts. Nevertheless, big stars or not, it would seem there is something still missing from the formula.

 Sportingly Depleted

Normally, I dread TFC’s trips to play in Kansas City. Sporting are tough opponents. Their new stadium might be the best facility for the sport in the US. Usually, they play like it is and they deserve the same respect.

The question for tonight, however, is whether this is a perfect storm for SKC.

Sporting are limping into tonight’s match. Their central defence has been levelled by injuries. They’ve lost their past two matches. Their back line tonight will feature shuffled in players accustomed to other roles. Nothing could bode better for the Reds one trick.

There will likely be goals in both directions. Here’s hoping we come out on top.

For a TFC team struggling to hold it together under heavy expectations, a third road win in the first half of the season would be a bloody big deal.


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