I got a lot of heat for dismissing Toronto FC as an empty, mixed up corporate entity disguised as “The People’s Repository of Footballing Hopes and Dreams” after they equaled Major League Soccer’s worst ever start, even after what was hailed as a “bright performance” in the Voyageur’s Cup against Montreal. I went to unheard of lengths (checked MLS Chalkboards) to show that, despite Toronto’s positive performance in the first leg of said competition in Vancouver against the Whitecaps, they were, tactically speaking, a team at odds with itself.
Those flaws were capitalized by DC United on the weekend, leading to a 3-1 loss at the RFK stadium. Broadly speaking, Toronto’s stats were very similar to those against Vancouver. As before, Toronto registered a higher number of attempts on goal, 19 to DC’s 9. As before, they still managed to get fewer on target than the opposition, 4 to DC’s 6. Also similar to the Voyageur’s Cup game, they attempted far more crosses than DC, who, playing in a 4-1-2-3, worked the ball more effectively up the middle, as did Vancouver. Toronto had a 70% pass accuracy, as before. They also enjoyed 40% possession, as before.
It’s all so…familiar. Toronto FC maintains the illusion of effectiveness up front by peppering wayward shots against the opposition net, some blocked, some off target, few genuinely threatening.
Moreover in a 4-3-3, as I wrote last week, you’d expect some attacking play from the full-backs when the team’s in possession of the ball, but both Jeremy Hall, who was impressive in the Vancouver game, and Ashtone Morgan weren’t that active in the final third. Perhaps this was to compensate for the lack of defensive prowess from both Terry Dunfield and Eric Avila, who didn’t do much in the way of anything.
Moreover, Reggie Lambe and Joao Plata were poor in their offensive support to Ryan Johnson, which meant Julian De Guzman was forced to come forward as a more attacking player. This further exposed the two central defenders as DC played a more narrow formation, through the middle.
In essence, Toronto FC remains tactically unchanged. Teams playing a possession-based 4-3-3 normally shift to a 4-5-1 in defense, but it’s clear the wingers are negligent in their defensive duties. Despite the easy line, Toronto FC’s woes go far beyond the so-called need for a world class centreback pairing.