Toronto FC has only played two games so far this season and they were both big ones. They turned in a pair of solid performances which were enough to claim a 4-3 win on aggregate over the LA Galaxy. What we saw in last night's game though was a very interest combination of styles in Toronto FC's attack. The combination of the Latin flair and the simple effectiveness of the Dutch players can be described through popular dances in their native countries. For TFC's Latin players the style is obvious as they can often be seen doing a version of a salsa dance after one of them scores a goal. The Dutch style is harder to describe in a dance but it can be done so with Jumpen (or Jumpstyle) which is a very simple dance based on solid footwork that is very popular in the Netherlands.
The Salsa dance is all about fast footwork and flair which is a great way to describe the Latino/Caribbean players on Toronto's roster. Luis Silva, Joao Plata, Ryan Johnson, and Reggie Lambe all embrace their back ground and play in that distinct style. The flair that they bring to the team was crucial in the win over LA and it is no coincidence that there was salsa dancing going on in both legs. Ryan Johnson scored the opening goal of each game and it was all about being sharp and clinical with his chances.
In the first leg, Johnson found the ball at his feet following a bit of a scrambled corner. He did not waste anytime in squaring to the goal and firing home a shot that gave Saunders no chance of making the save. He followed the goal up with some sweet kung-fu on the corner flag and a little dancing in front of 48,000 or so fans.In the second leg, it was more of the same from Johnson as he made his one real chance of the game count as he connected with Soolsma's cross with a header back across the goal. Once again it was a clinical finish that left the keeper with no chance of making the save. Again it led to some dancing with Plata and a slight attempt by Ashtone Morgan to join in.
On both goals Ryan Johnson showed that the salsa style in the current squad is not only about flash and fancy boots. It can also be about exact execution and working with your partner. Salsa is a dance done with a partner and it seems that mentality is carrying over to the squad early in this season. The moments of flair are being worked in to the team play and it has led to some impressive buildup in the first two legs.
The incorporation of that style into the team is personified by Luis Silva. He was born in Mexico and has a clear Latino background but he did a lot of his development as a player in several US clubs. He is capable of both the moments of flair but also the efficient style of play that is popular in American soccer. It has shown in the limited playing time we have seen from him this season. When he gets on the ball in space he is more than capable of dribbling and creating space or even shrugging off a defender with his moves. He has also shown that when a chance falls to his feet he knows exactly how to go route one and find the back of the net. Besides his one glaring miss in the game last night he has been clinical with his chances all through the preseason and on the goal that he scored in the first leg.
So it seems that Johnson and SIlva have both learned to incorporate that Latin style into the American game. Plata and Lambe though seem to struggle with that so far though. In the case of Plata, he has proven to be capable of using that style to produce some moments of brilliance but it has also caused some inconsistencies in his game. It would go a long way for Plata in becoming a regular contributor if he learned to go route one just now and then. Sometimes he spends a bit to much time on the ball trying to go on runs rather than making the simple effective play. When his runs pay off it leads to moments of brilliance but he lacks the consistency that will make Johnson and Silva more regular contributors. In the end, Plata has time on his side as a young player and can still learn to adapt his salsa style to the MLS game.
As for Lambe, well I just wish he would show any kind of consistent style. He has never managed to really pull off the flair that you would expect nor has he shown that he can be effective going route one. Unless he shows that he can be effective in some style or role he might find himself stuck behind the strangely effective Nick Soolsma.
Speaking of Soolsma, he was the hero of last nights game with a beautiful assist on Johnson's goal followed up by slotting home the winning goal in the second half. He plays in the typical style of a Dutch attacker. There are a few exceptions in the Dutch game that play the attacking style with a high degree of flair but for the most part it is all about being ruthlessly efficient. If you look back at the likes of Rudd Van Nistelrooy, Patrick Kluivert, Dennis Bergkamp, and even current goal scoring sensation Robin Van Persie. They all, like Danny Koevermans and Nick Soolsma, rely on efficiency over flair. If you watch them playing the game you will notice that they almost never waste energy on useless runs or scrambling around like a headless chicken but rather are often quietly lurking around waiting for their moment to pounce.
In the games against LA, and in the preseason, Koevermans has been very quiet. That is not abnormal for him as he often is quiet in games but what is surprising is the fact that he failed to score. Soolsma stepped up to fill the void though with his second half strike. He got a single chance all game and oh boy did he make it count. He was just lurking quietly in the box and managed to remain pretty much unmarked before a short sprint towards to goal putting him in position to meet Johnson's well placed cross. He connected well with the ball and slotted it down low beating Saunders before he could get down to make the save.
So how does jumpen fit in with that dutch style of play? Well I am going to go ahead and assume that most people reading this are not familiar with the dance style. It is basically a very simple dance that takes place at a lot of rave type clubs and parties in the Netherlands and other European countries. The dance is basically all leg movement with lots of jumping and kicking. Very little flair, lots of power, and quite simple. It is a style that one performs on their own or with other around them.
It is like the typical dutch player. Not a whole lot of flash or flair but despite being about very simple dance moves it all comes together to form a strangely impressive style. When you watch an amateur do it you might scratch your head and wonder just what the hack they are doing jumping around and kicking but when it is done at its finest it can be like an art form.
For Toronto FC this season's success will come down to the combination of that Salsa style with all its flash and flair and the Dutch Jumpstyle with it simple effectiveness. And now if you are still totally confused you can see jumpen in action here