On a weekend overshadowed by Toronto Blue, the Reds of Toronto more than held their own. Yes, it was the first weekend of Blue Jays baseball and yes it was the weekend where the Toronto Maple Leafs clinched a playoff spot so there was no shortage of excitement for the Blue in the GTA. But TFC and TFC II were at home this weekend as well and for those whose preference lie towards the Reds on the colour spectrum, they too produced their own brand of excitement.
The Atlanta United are the newest team in MLS and they came into town and earned a 2-2 tie behind Hector Villalba’s brace. It was a highly entertaining game with both teams going all out for the win. There was some beautiful passing, many scoring chances and even an elbow to the back of Eriq Zavaleta’s head that lead to a straight red card for United’s Yamil Asad.
The Reds did control most of the match and had far more quality scoring chances. They were not able to convert however and that left a sour taste in their mouth. In fact the same can be said of the season so far as they have 1 win and 4 draws yet despite being undefeated, the atmosphere around the clubhouse doesn’t seem as light and as jovial as one might think. That’s what happens when you are last year’s finalists and have the heavy burden of expectation.
“Tonight we played well enough to take full points and we didn’t” coach Vanney said in his post game conference, “that’s the frustration that you feel.”
For Victor Vazquez, he continues to acclimatize to both Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco and although the timing isn’t quite perfect yet, there was noticeable improvement in play between the trio and that led to the Atomic Ant’s first goal of the season. That should take some of the pressure of Giovinco and hopefully he finds his superstar form once again.
Defender Chris Mavinga made his debut in a Reds jersey on the other hand and it may be one he soon wishes to forget. Unfortunately, both goals were a result of Villalba getting behind him and he was substituted soon after. Mavinga has the speed to keep up with forwards, but he will need to improve his ability to read plays as each time he didn’t get a good jump. This leads to the question of whether the three points were lost to missed opportunities of front or the two errors in back.
“I don’t necessarily subscribe to winning games 5-2 or 4-2.” Vanney responded. “I think we have a good defensive team and we shouldn’t have given up those goals.”
The focus on defence shouldn’t be surprising as that is what made them successful in 2016 and was probably the main catalyst that got them into the MLS Finals. What should be encouraging to TFC fans is that this isn’t just a team philosophy, but one that is getting permanently imprinted across the entire organization.
In their season home opener, Toronto FC II drew 0-0 with a familiar, difficult foe in the Rochester Rhinos. After a fairly even opening half, the Young Reds dominated the second but could not find the back of the net. With a shortage of goals to start the season one would think offence is the coach’s main area of concern. Similar to the parent club however, defence is at the forefront.
“… we’ve only scored two goals in four games which is not such a huge, huge factor if you are getting clean sheets” Toronto FC II coach Jason Bent commented after the game.
“I’ll definately take the clean sheets first.”
That message is getting clear to everyone in the TFC organization as you hear it echoed amongst their players as well.
“The big goal going into this match was keeping clean sheet, that’s the goal for the whole season really,” said keeper Angelo Cavalluzzo who earned his first clean sheet for Toronto FC II. “We use that as a platform to build off of and hopefully that leads to victories.”
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