TORONTO— Greg Vanney was probably imagining a different outcome for his Toronto FC squad. After jumping to a 2-0 lead over Colorado on Sunday, Vanney was hungry for his squad to put the foot on the gas to secure the three points.
But after giving up two goals, the Toronto FC manager knew he was in for a battle. With their playoff chances on the line, the Rapids picked up their play with goals from Keegan Rosenberry and Sam Nicholson.
What Toronto FC relied on in the waning moments of the match is something Vanney has been preaching all season. Resiliency. The tenacious nature of this team at this point in the season is apparent, demonstrated by Jonathan Osorio’s goal in the 70th minute to secure the 3-2 Toronto FC victory over Colorado.
“When Jonathan [Osario] was called upon, he helped us out. He did that.” said Vanney after the game.
Vanney Inspiring Squad to Play to Full Potential
Sunday’s victory against Colorado marks the ninth consecutive game where Toronto FC has been unbeaten. Boasting a 5-0-4 record in that stretch highlights the consistency that Vanney has been searching for all season long with his team.
“We have been consistent in terms of our starting group and tactics,” stated Vanney. “The consistency has led to us getting settled in from a defensive perspective and establishing our principles of play.”
Their stellar unbeaten streak is far removed from the struggles this team had at various points in the season. Injuries occurred. Lending players for international play is inevitable.
But for lengthy periods, this Toronto FC squad was searching for an identity that rivalled what many football fans witnessed when they captured the MLS Cup. For years, going into BMO Field and winning was a difficult task to do for opposing teams. In a 15 game stretch this season, the Reds conceded 24 goals. At one point, they were 19th of 23 teams in terms of total league goals conceded.
Vanney needed to instill a shift in defensive strategy. Poor collective defending impeded the squad from qualifying for the postseason last year. This is why the club went out to sign Omar Gonzalez, Nicolas Benezet and Erickson Gallardo in the summer window.
During the past nine games, the Reds have only given up 10 goals. The defense has strengthened their consistency, particularly not allowing opposing players to get into open space. And they have been strong on the counter attack, evidenced by Gallardo’s cross into the box to set up Osorio’s game winning goal.
Greg Vanney Not Satisfied, Preparing for Playoffs
In addition to the defenders, Toronto FC is getting much improved defense from its midfielders. Vanney has worked with Alejandro Pouzelo, who netted a penalty kick against Colorado, to become a consistent defender, in addition to being a prolific offensive generator.
But what has enhanced the Reds confidence level is how they have responded to in-game adversity. No better example of this than when goalkeeper Quentin Westberg committed a mental gaffe by tackling a Colorado Rapids player in the box. Westberg followed up the foul with a game changing save on the ensuing penalty kick. Is it comparable to scoring a goal?
“I haven’t scored a goal since I was 13 or 14 years old so I don’t know the feeling,” smiled Westberg. “I am very happy with the outcome and to come out of this game with three points.”
With the victory, Toronto FC sits firm in fourth place, three points back of Atlanta United in the MLS East Standings. It is true that Coach Vanney wants his team to be more disciplined and composed when gaining a lead.
But the tenacity demonstrated on the pitch cannot be understated. Making Toronto FC a dangerous team come playoff time.