The first installment of the Know Your Enemy series was released earlier today, looking at New York’s lineup and recent form.
Game Film - The Tactics
Toronto must be wary of Red Bull’s break away speed. Fabian Espindola in particular thrives on stretching the field of play with his bursting runs into the wider area, collecting passes from deep and occasionally finishing those chances.
In the first match of the season against Portland, Mikael Silvestre’s error in reading the flight of a ball allow Espindola to steal in and score his first, while against New England, he struck again.
That stretching of the pitch, facilitated by the runs of Espindola and the ball-playing ability of Juninho - who thankfully, will not be available - creates space for the most dangerous attacking talent in the league Thierry Henry.
His stunning strike against Philadelphia added another highlight-reel strike to his ever-lengthening resume – recall his gorgeous half-volley against New England last season. Those will come on occasion and cannot be stopped, but what Henry thrives on is drifting off the back-line to the left, hovering above the box to find space and release a shot towards the far-post.
His goal against DC is a perfect example, while both his strike against New England was a slightly accelerated version of the same thing with a calm finish across the keeper to the far-netting.
Without Juninho and with Jamison Olave possibly out of the lineup the danger posed by set-pieces is slightly reduced, but Tim Cahill is – was? – always deceptively capable in the air and is overdue for some offense.
Against Chicago Cahill won a header that most would have given up on, leading to Olave’s goal.
New York, even without their big-name talent – Henry did start the counter with a ball out to the right from the centre-circle - can be very clinical on the counter; their fourth goal against New England was far too easy, catching the Revolution with numbers forward.
Toronto has kept the defense well-organized so far; that said, they should be aware of the threat posed by the quick break.
Henry’s ability to drop back into the midfield and initiate attacks is another of his traits that can be devastating. Expect at least one centre-back and a defensive-minded midfielder – former teammate Jeremy Hall perhaps – to track him closely throughout.
Luis Robles joined the side last year as they scrambled for replacement after impressive rookie keeper Ryan Meara was ruled out for the season with a hip injury.
While an exceptionally good person, he can be a touch tentative on his line. Chicago’s Daniel Paladini beat him to a hanging cross to level the score for the Fire at the end of the first half and open the possibility of a comeback.
Justin Braun has show himself willing to throw himself about in front of goal and Toronto should follow up shots in search of a spilled rebound.
Their chopped and changed back-line has appeared a little fractured at times – only natural as they coalesce – and they can be a little slow on the turn, or in quick movements that call their mobility in question.
Marco Di Vaio’s game-winner in Montreal was a good example. Patrice Bernier’s quick ball, poking a half-clearance back behind the line as it pushed up, was devastating. Di Vaio stayed onside and finished.
Similarly, Diego Valeri’s stunning week one strike saw him slice through the back-line.
Robert Earnshaw will constantly probe for gaps and if TFC get their timing down, he could well extend his impressive goal-scoring start for the club.
Their defensive marking on set-pieces has been atrocious. Conor Casey’s near-post header from a Sheanon Williams long-throw, Aurelien Collin’s near-post header from a Graham Zusi corner kick and most troublingly the shocking defending of the long , Maicon Santos’ second goal in Chicago.
They have also conceded two own-goals already, indicative of a lack of composure under pressure and retreating too deep when threatened.
Points of Interest
New York are undefeated in their last seven meetings with TFC (five wins and two draws), while Toronto have drawn their last four league matches. Is another draw in the offing?
Toronto’s last home wins against New York were separated by a mere eleven days, when the two met twice in June of 2009 – Sam Cronin and Danny Dichio scored when TFC won 2-1 on the 13th, while Pablo Vitti and Dwayne De Rosario tallied on the 24th.
Defeats to New York have marked some of the more depressing days of TFC fandom – the horrid 5-0 loss at Giants Stadium come the end of that year – 2009 – ended any hope of the postseason, while a terrible 1-4 loss at home in 2010 saw Rafa Marquez score a screamer and Carl Robinson strike a blow against his former employers.