Last night after Canada impressed against the more talented USA at BMO Field last night in a 0-0 friendly draw, several people on the Twitter came out with their “men of the match.” De Guzman was on more than a few lists, which begs the question—why doesn’t he play like this for Toronto FC?
Some mused he was utilized in a different formational role, but there he was playing central defensive mid in a 4-3-3, just like for the Reds. The trite answer is he’s surrounded by (far) more talented players with Canada, but it’s also the correct one. Here’s a brief explanation why.
One of the reasons this season why Toronto FC have been so poor has been their struggle to adapt to Aron Winter’s preferred possession-based 4-3-3. A look at the Opta Chalkboards reveals several telling patterns for the club this season. One is the failure of Ashtone Morgan to match Jeremy Hall’s ability to push up in attack as a full-back. That, coupled with the general lack of impact of JDG’s midfield partners and the preference for the front three wingers to cross the ball rather than cut in, has meant De Guz has been often forced to push up out of position to try and assist in attack, which leaves the two centrebacks exposed.
It’s interesting that in Toronto FC’s 1-0 win against Philadelphia, De Guz moved out to the left, with Frings in the central defensive role. Frings was still forced to come too far forward, but De Guzman’s impact on the left was immediately apparent, and contrasted significantly against that of Luis Silva on the right, who drifted in out of position and posted a negative pass completion rate.
Last night however, De Guzman was paired up with a rampant Will Johnson to his left and relatively durable (and far more positionally disciplined) Nik Ledgerwood on his right. Moreover, he was helped greatly by the fact both De Rosario and Tossaint Ricketts didn’t cross the ball from wide positions, but instead cut in or passed back to maintain possession in the US’s final third. They were able to do so also in part because both fullbacks in David Edgar and Ante Jazic were excellent using the length of the channels and tracking back in defense. That’s the ideal in a 4-3-3.
Canada were far from “perfect.” Ricketts lacked the quality of De Guzman on the right although he was still impressive. Olivier Occean didn’t have the impact on the game some expected (Simeon Jackson looked more threatening when he came on in the 65th minute and improved Canada’s chances). Canada allowed the US far too much time on the ball, maintaining only 38% possession (the US were however, perhaps out of injury concerns, reticent to press Canada in their own half).
Still, you can see the impact on a player of JDG’s quality when he’s surrounded by players a little more comfortable in their prescribed roles.