EDITORIAL – Alejandro Pozuelo and Chris Mavinga played a big role in Toronto FC regular season that saw them finish with the second-best record in MLS. TFC were unbeaten in their first seven games of the 2020 MLS season. They would then lose two straight against the Montreal Impact and the Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
They would however go on a nine-game unbeaten run straight afterwards where TFC won seven of those games. In fact, at one point in the year, TFC was leading the Supporters’ Shield race. However, injuries played a big part in TFC losing the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union.
The Remarkable 2020 MLS Season of Toronto FC and Alejandro Pozuelo
Alejandro Pozuelo: Toronto FC’s Most Valuable Player
Alejandro Pozuelo is tied for the MLS lead in assists and is tied for the team lead in goals with Ayo Akinola. Pozuelo also has five game-winning goals and two game-winning assists for TFC.
— theScore MLS (@theScoreMLS) November 11, 2020
This is what TFC President Bill Manning said about Alejandro Pozuelo:
“He has shown not only what a great player he is but he’s turned into one of the leaders on the team. And he’s invaluable for us. He’s a good person, has good character and has bought into everything. He’s a winner.”
Pozuelo is also the only Toronto player to play all 23 regular-season games this year. He leads the league in combined goals and assists with 19. His influence can be seen throughout the season. This includes his play in the MLS is Back Tournament, which played a big role in Akinola’s success. Lastly, counting both goals and assists, Pozuelo has been involved in 57.6 percent of TFC’s total number of 33 goals. That statistic alone shows how valuable of a player Alejandro Pozuelo is.
Mavinga, TFC’s best defender also deserves a mention as he was one of the initial 47 players mentioned for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP Award.
Man's Very Proficient 😏 pic.twitter.com/uvr7QwFH9Q
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) November 10, 2020
What went right:
Eleven of TFC’s 13 wins were one-goal games. The first win for Toronto came thanks to 2020 MLS SuperDraft pick Ifunanyachi Achara, who scored the game-winning-goal against New York City FC on March 7th at BMO Field. Homegrown TFC player Akinola would then have a hat-trick against the Impact on July 16th, to help TFC win 4-3 in the MLS is Back Tournament.
However, it was most evident in MLS Phase I and II. Two of TFC’s three wins in Phase I were one-goal games and six of TFC’s seven wins were one-goal games in Phase II. This included a big Jozy Altidore goal in the 89-minute against the Impact on September 9th, which was TFC’s last Phase I game.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) September 10, 2020
This win combined with Vancouver’s win over Montreal on September 16th played a big role in TFC making the 2020 Canadian Championship Final. This win was also the first of nine games where TFC was unbeaten. This includes winning six games in eight matches to start off MLS Phase II.
Pablo Piatti, TFC’s new designated player stepped up with four goals and four assists. More importantly, the emergency of Richie Laryea and Akinola has played a big part in Toronto’s success.
What went wrong:
At the start of the season, the problem for TFC was closing games. For example, in their first 2020 MLS regular season match against the San Jose Earthquakes, they gave up a late goal to Oswaldo Alanis at the 90+5-minute to end the game in a tie. They also gave up a late lead to D.C. United. This included giving up a 2-0 lead and being a man up after the first half on July 13. However, D.C. would score two late goals to tie the game in the MLS is Back Tournament.
— D.C. United (@dcunited) July 13, 2020
After July 13, though TFC tightened up defensively. Yes, they still gave up leads to United once again and the New York Red Bulls in MLS Phase II. However, since MLS Phase I, TFC has closed many of the games, which is reflected in their record.
The second problem was injuries. TFC had several injuries throughout the season to its most important players. This includes Altidore, Jonathan Osorio, Piatti, Laryea, and Akinola. This issue caught up with TFC as they lost three of their last four MLS regular-season games.
What they need to do to have success in the playoffs:
Getting healthy is the most important thing. It has been shown that TFC when at their best can beat any team in MLS. This includes injuries to important players like Piatti, Justin Morrow, and Marky Delgado. This was shown in MLS Phase II when they won two straight games at Hartford against Columbus Crew SC and the Union.
Furthermore, make sure the defence is solid. Toronto has shown the ability to close games out in MLS Phase I and II. They must continue this if they want to win their second MLS Cup. TFC is not a team that will dominate another team. This is shown by their goal differential of +7, which puts them 10th in MLS.
Lastly, they must possess the ball. They have shown an ability to do that in most of their games. If TFC does that, they should have a particularly good chance to win their second MLS Cup. They have shown an ability to do that in the 2020 MLS season. However, it is also important to note that each playoff game is only one game, so the stakes are that much higher.
"As a team, as a club, we've tried to get rid of all the excuses, come every day ready to enjoy what we do. When you look at everything going on all around the world, we are very lucky to be able to do what we love."#TFCLive
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) November 9, 2020