Toronto FC has finished its phase one with four wins, two losses and zero ties. TFC is currently third place in the Supporters’ Shield race behind Trillium Cup rivals Columbus Crew SC and the Philadelphia Union. Toronto will be in the Canadian Championship Final, where they will face either Hamilton Forge FC or HFX Wanderers FC.
The MLS Phase One Review of Toronto FC
Toronto FC qualify for the 2020 Canadian Championship Final after finishing 1⃣st with 12 points from six matches.
Toronto FC : 4-0-2 (W W W L L W)
Impact de Montréal : 3-0-3 (W L W L W W)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC : 2-0-4 (L L L W L W)#CanChamp 🍁 https://t.co/DeSRw6UX2R https://t.co/Cvy0BiUWKj pic.twitter.com/xWIulaMJMU
— Canada Soccer (@CanadaSoccerEN) September 17, 2020
Defense the Key in Games Won
The problem for Toronto FC was giving up too many goals before the first phase in MLS. In the four wins for Toronto FC, they only gave up one goal. Three of these four games were one-goal wins for Toronto FC. This shows TFC’s ability to close out games at home and on the road.
Chris Mavinga stepped up in many ways for Toronto FC’s MLS phase one game. Furthermore, they dominated the possession and did not give up many shots on the goal. Toronto gave up only six shots on goal in the four games won. All of this is a recipe for success for TFC.
Pablo Piatti and Alejandro Pozuelo Steps Up
For a designated player, Pablo Piatti seemed quiet before the MLS Phase One season began. However, Piatti led all goals for Toronto FC in phase one of the MLS season with three goals. This included two against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. This is what Greg Vanney said about Piatti’s performance on Aug. 18.
“Tonight he had a little bit more of an eye for the goal,” Vanney said. “He found himself in some good spots and picked out some good spots in the net.”
Alejandro Pozuelo, the Spaniard international, also played well, scoring two goals for Toronto. These two players are leading goal scorers in Phase One. More impressive is the number of assists Pozuelo was making in addition to his goals. He has three assists in Phase One. All his assists came against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
However, the praise of Phase One for Toronto should go to Richie Laryea.
He went across the field and past the Montreal Impact defense before passing it to Piatti for the easy goal. Toronto would win that game 2-1 thanks to a late Jozy Altidore goal.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) September 10, 2020
Laryea was also impressive, scored the game-winner against the Whitecaps on Aug. 21.
In the wins, Toronto demonstrated their skills on defense and offense. However, in their losses, Toronto FC showed a lack of concentration and awareness. They gave up four goals in these two games. A big reason for this is set-piece defending.
Three of the four goals given up by Toronto FC were because of poor set-piece defending.
“In this game, we gave up two goals on set-pieces,” Vanney said about the issue. “I think our performances are good, our ability to create chances is good, so I’m not concerned about that stuff. We need to defend better in set-pieces, 100%.”
Looking at the game on Sept. 5, late in the second half, some Toronto FC players went ball-watching. This allowed Andy Rose to pass it to Jakob Nerwinski to score the game-winning goal. The other goal given up by Toronto against the Whitecaps through a set-piece in the same game was hard to stop though.
They blocked the Whitecaps free-kick from outside the box. However, Michael Baldisimo picked up the ball for the Whitecaps and scored a wondrous goal to give them the 2-1 lead at the time. They also allowed an early goal to the Montreal Impact on Sept. 1, as a Romell Quioto cross off a short corner led to a Rudy Camacho goal.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 6, 2020
Finally, even though it was not a set-piece, the first goal the Toronto gave up to the Whitecaps was not a good goal. Lucas Cavallini was able to get behind Laurent Ciman, without Ciman noticing.
The Penalty Controversy
Yes, this is not a weakness that Toronto FC should work on.
However, it was a mistake and one that could have been costly for Toronto FC. Late in the first half, Altidore drew a penalty shot for TFC. Pozuelo, Toronto’s current best player, took the penalty. However, something rarely seen in soccer matches took place.
Pozuelo rolled the ball forward and Piatti ran to the ball and shot it past Clément Diop.
45'+1 | …
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) September 2, 2020
People might think they practiced this penalty shot beforehand. However, this does not seem to be the case as even Vanney was not happy with the play.
“Not sure what is going on on the penalty kick,” Vanney said after the Canadian Classique setback. “We’re down a goal, we should just be burying the ball in the back of the net and moving on. We gift them the fact that they don’t even have to make a save or do anything on a penalty kick, and we have a number of other opportunities [after].”
This type of penalty kick is likely to never happen again in MLS.
Yes, Pozuelo’s shot could have been stopped by Diop. However, not even getting a shot on goal for a penalty shot has to be seen as a wasted opportunity. This mistake could have cost them a spot in the Canadian Championship Final.
Overview of Toronto FC and their First MLS Phase
Toronto FC started off the first phase blazing. They won the first three games and never gave up a goal. However, in the next three games, they would give up five goals. This includes giving up three goals to the Whitecaps on three shots on goal, which is a sign of bad goalkeeping and defending.
However, they were able to rebound and win their last phase one game against the Impact.
The next three opponents for Toronto FC have been determined. They will face D.C. United on Sept. 19, New York City FC on Sept. 23 and Columbus Crew SC on Sept. 27. NYCFC and the Crew will be rivalry games for Toronto FC.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) September 11, 2020