- Category: Soccer
- Published Monday, March 9, 2015
- Toronto Sun
TFC finally has a true No. 9
Remember Gilberto? Toronto FC supporters aren’t talking about, or missing him anymore.
The Reds thought they had a true No.
9 in the Brazilian striker.
But when Gilberto failed to break the 10-goal barrier in his first season, the MLSE board — led by general manager Tim Bezbatchenko — looked elsewhere.
The answer: A swap deal for Sunderland striker Jozy Altidore that sent Jermain Defoe back to England.
The U.S. international silenced critics on Saturday by bagging a brace in his first appearance with the Reds.
And what he did away from the penalty area was just as important.
Not only did Altidore end his club goal-scoring drought, he was fantastic in possession, too.
He battled two of the meanest central defenders in the league, man-handling Vancouver’s Pa-Modou Kah before the incident that led to the game-sealing penalty.
In Altidore, the Reds appear to have a dynamic No. 9 who can also play with his back to goal and bring guys like Sebastian Giovinco, Jonathan Osorio and Robbie Findley into the attack.
Giovinco entertains in first game
He had a few poor touches, a few bad moments through the opening half.
But Sebastian Giovinco — Toronto FC’s $40-million man — will be a treat to watch this season.
I’d argue he wasn’t fantastic throughout Saturday’s match, but he did what big time players do: Provide moments that make the difference in tough games and tough environment.
In the locker room post-game, Altidore said he expects the Italian international to only get better as the season goes on.
His pass to Altidore for Toronto FC’s equalizer was sublime. He should have had a goal before that, too.
The most intriguing part of Saturday’s match was how TFC’s high-priced (and experienced) players slowly found the game.
They figured things out, found the pockets after 60 minutes before eventually dominating the proceedings.
The freedom Giovinco enjoys as an advanced midfielder in head coach Greg Vanney’s system could force opposing teams to man-mark the diminutive attacker in the coming weeks.
Defensive organization needed for 90 minutes
Things improved towards the end of the first half Saturday, but before that the Vancouver Whitecaps were having their way with the Reds.
Part of that was due to the poor turnovers that persisted for Toronto FC through the opening half-hour.
The other part of it was the insanely high line the Reds were playing with Steven Caldwell and Damien Perquis marshaling the back four.
The space behind Caldwell and fullback Warren Creavalle was exploited far too often in the first half before eventually leading to Octavio Rivero’s opener.
The fact it took the Reds close to 45 minutes to fix that was concerning — and could have seen them enter halftime down a few goals.
Caldwell’s lack of concern for the space behind him needs to be addressed — especially when you consider TFC knew before the match that the ’Caps hoped to get out and run.
When the Reds dropped off in the second half to keep guys like Kekuta Manneh and Rivero in front of them, Vancouver’s young attackers were out of ideas.
The other additions look solid
Moments after the match, MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke emerged from the locker room, walked towards me, shook my hand and said something like “this win was just as much about the guys people aren’t taking about.”
The less sexy signings — Benoit Cheyrou, Findley, Perquis.
He’s right. Without the non-DP experience the team would be a fringe playoff side at best.
Each one played a role on in Saturday’s win, with Cheyrou complementing Bradley in a dominating second-half performance.
Next to Caldwell at the back, Perquis was close to mistake-free, coming to the rescue on a number of occasions in the first half.
You didn’t even notice him during the second 45 minutes, did you? That’s a compliment to a central defender.
Beyond scoring the game-winner, Findley played in so many different roles Saturday it was hard to tell which position he was playing.
At times, Findley was up top. Other times he was wide. It certainly gave Vancouver’s centre backs something to constantly be thinking about.
Going to press the issue
Something happened on Saturday that rarely happens on the road in MLS.
No, not a TFC win.
The fact an away team that was winning on the road continued to press the issue and dominate, leading to it doubling its advantage.
The Reds didn’t need to go forward after Findley made it 2-1 in the second half, but by keeping possession they killed off the game without the ’Caps getting a sniff of the other goal.
On most occasions in this league, the leading team will typically drop off and defend for their lives with all 11 men.
Not the Reds, apparently.
Despite making at least one defensive substitution — bringing in Collin Warner for Findley — Toronto FC continued to control the tempo.
In fact, give Warner an assist on Altidore’s PK. It was TFC’s reserve midfielder who floated in the ball that led to the spot kick.
It could mean far fewer nervy moments for TFC fans during the season — especially if this TFC side can produce multiple goals per game.
There’s no reason to think it can’t.