There was so much that went right for Toronto FC in Saturday’s 0-2 win over the Crew in Columbus.
Standout, gritty performances all over the pitch: the replacement centre-backs Bradley Orr and rookie Nick Hagglund were outstanding; a dynamic two-way display from Jackson; a glimpse at the potential contribution (and the brilliance of acquiring) Justin Morrow; some kid named Kyle Bekker bossing the midfield in his own subtle way; Dwayne De Rosario working himself into the ground, and so on.
Never mind the contributions of Michael Bradley and the game-saving, well, saves, of Julio Cesar.
Granted, the Crew were surprisingly flat, but that should not discredit what was a textbook away result in a league that does not often allow such precision – it was a rather strange weekend in that respect, with only one home team winning through nine matches.
Back in preseason, Waking the Red rambled through some of the changes, both in play and in attitude that would bode well for the upcoming season. And it seems TFC has answered some of those demands.
At the risk of being a touch too vainglorious, a quote from these very pages – "Good things happen when extra men go forward".
Both of Toronto’s goals from Saturday were such opportunistic advances – Michael Bradley took the first in the 11th minute, spotting a laneway through the Columbus defenses (click here for a full examination), while Issey Nakajima-Farran deftly spotted and then took his chance in the 85th to seal the result.
Now, Bradley orchestrated his own chance, encouraging Mark Bloom to lay that little outside ball down the side of the box and finishing through Columbus keeper, Steve Clark.
But Nakajima-Farran’s was truly a predatory, instinctive move.
It was the 85th minute, his side were under severe pressure as Columbus were throwing men forward in search of an equalizer, and Toronto were looking to kill time deep near the opposition’s corner flag.
Common-sense would dictate that Issey, playing on the right-side of the midfield should sit deep, not take any chances, and be in position to provide defensive cover should the turnover come and Columbus head up field.
But rather than take that conservative option, Nakajima-Farran spotted the window – Jackson dinking up to Morrow who took on Wil Trapp to send in a cross – and made his way towards the near-post to be in position to capitalize on the chance:
After all, who dares, wins.
There is no better way to see out a spell of pressure than to add an insurance goal or two – and that late touch all but ended the contest, securing Toronto’s second road win of the season, tying the mark established last season through just three matches.
Some of the other dictates from those preseason ramblings - score first, score early and protect that lead, then add to it.
TFC is a perfect three-wins from three when they score first, in two of those wins they put the opponent on the back foot with goals in the first half-hour of the game, and only once have they conceded after scoring – by then they had already added a second, cancelling the effects of such a potential equalizer.
And, they are yet to concede a goal in that dreaded final fifteen minutes of a match.
All that is well and good, but most encouraging is that they, despite the odds and history being against them with numerous injuries and a poor record in Columbus, responded to the disappointment of the Salt Lake match with a stellar follow-up display, simultaneously making the case that perhaps they have a little more depth to the lineup than critics counted.
One last request from preseason – respond to disappointment and do not let losses turn into losing streaks.
Cave canem; canis est in via – what is the rest of MLS going to do about it.