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What Just Happened? - Dropping behind the line.

Just how did the Whitecaps pick apart TFC's defence so clinically for their goal on Saturday?

Go ahead. Celebrate your one goal against the (former) "worst team in the world"
Go ahead. Celebrate your one goal against the (former) "worst team in the world"
Jeff Vinnick

Each time Toronto FC takes to the pitch - or at least when we have the time, the staff here at Waking the Red will pick a single play that changed the outcome of the match.

It may be a goal - it will often be a goal, it may be a save; hopefully at some point it will be a fearsome, game-saving tackle, and on a rare occasion - should we feel so inclined - it could well be a refereeing decision, but for the good of the game, let's hope not.

In their opening match of the 2013 MLS season Toronto travelled a million miles across the country to Vancouver, home of the Whitecaps, the greatest team since bread was officially available in a sliced format (hyperbole, yes, but commonly accepted if one pays any heed to some of the more hysterical members of the West Coast Fraternity).

Before we get to the play in question, let's set the stage.

TFC had done an admirable job of containing the Vancouver threat throughout the first half. Fans and pundits alike had anticipated one-way traffic, the Whitecaps pouring forward, wave after wave of attack, but that prophesy failed to materialize.

The reason is that Toronto by pressing the ball-carrier, maintaining their defensive shape, and slowing the tempo of the match were able to prevent Vancouver from getting into a passing rhythm and using their speed to find those pockets of space, not to mention that TFC were bossing the possession.

Whether it was committing fouls, ever-so slightly delaying a restart, playing smart, safe passes or moving as a unit to simultaneously clog the passing lanes and force low-percentage or inaccurate passing, they were accomplishing their mission.

But then the referee blew his whistle for half-time and Toronto faced that age old dilemma of momentum.

That shrill toll knelled their demise.

Vancouver were offered the chance to regroup, take scope of what had transpired and tinker a little with their lineup. Martin Rennie opted to remove speedster Kekuta Manneh, who to that point had been their most threatening attacker, and replace him with recently acquired Nigel Reo-Coker - a shrewd wager by the wily Scotsman.

Reo-Coker, or Reo.C as he prefers to be known, helped calm the midfield, directing traffic as their formation morphed into something more akin to a 4-3-3 - including pushing Gershon Koffie up the field - while also upping the stagnant tempo that had prevented their attackers from finding the necessary space within which to operate.

They won a corner within two minutes, were able to force the Toronto defense to collapse down into the eighteen-yard box, allowing their side to send numbers forward and overpower the disjointed markers.

They started cycling the ball from side-to-side, fanning out the defense and picking up free kicks - Alain Rochat almost snuck a delivery in at the back-post - Camilo-style where a curling ball is still on target should no one get a touch - only for Joe Bendik to palm it away with a late diving stretch.

Toronto completely stopped pressuring ball-carriers before they got to the half-way line, a crucial factor, as we'll see.

Combine that proactive start with the fact that the shape Toronto had doggedly kept and the pressing that had served them so well, deteriorated around the same time, as they failed to really revive from half-time with the start of the second half.

Vancouver gradually upped the tempo and Toronto gave them space to string passes together; Nelsen's charges failing to match the energy out of the dressing room, which Rennie had instilled in his side.

That pattern continued; the field, now tilted towards his goal saw Bendik called more and more to action, and thus we get to our moment.

A brief spell of Toronto pressure ended with an over-hit Terry Dunfield cross into the arms of Joe Cannon, his initial instinct to boot the ball down field was thwarted, so he rolled it out to Andy O'Brien.

The goal began harmlessly enough, a long, straight aerial ball up the right, O'Brien wisely noting the chance to isolate a defender with a quick, direct pass.

In fact, the delivery should not have been a problem; Darren O'Dea had spotted the potential of Ashtone Morgan being left alone to deal with Darren Mattocks and had arrived to help out his teammate. But Mattocks, sandwiched between two defenders managed to rise above both and knock the ball back to the awaiting YP Lee.

Lee looked off Morgan using Mattock's dummy run on the outside and picked out Kenny Miller, who had inserted himself into the situation on the sly, rounding up from behind.

Jeremy Hall was drawn towards the right-back and was slow to react as Lee darted in-field for a return ball.

Now, Lee is at the corner of the eighteen-yard box and the alarms are sounding; all eyes are on him.

O'Dea and Hall collapse towards the ball, Dunfield, near the arc, holds his ground, but Lee inches him out of line with a look towards Koffie, who is now at the top of the arc, dead centre of the goal.

Dunfield leaning forward opens a channel towards Daigo Kobayashi, above the penalty spot, marked well by Richard Eckersley.

Daigo, touches it immediately into the path of the surging Koffie, who takes a touch with his right-foot to settle it as he enters the box, teeing up a finish with the same foot to the near-post.

All that happened in a mere thirteen seconds, from O'Brien's foot to the back of the net.

Who is to blame? Should Eckersley have tried to step in front of Daigo at risk of giving away a penalty? Should Dunfield have held his ground, risk Koffie getting a strike from the top of the arc? Should Califf have stepped up quicker, at risk of penalty or being caught moving in the wrong direction? Should Hogan Ephraim have abandoned his marking of Reo-Coker to pressure Lee from behind? Should Reggie Lambe have tracked the run of Koffie well across the field? Could Bendik have done better than to be beat on the short-side?

In truth, everyone is to blame, but it was a well-crafted goal by the Whitecaps, precipitated in large part by the pressure that began the second half backing Toronto's defensive line into their own eighteen-yard box.

If they had been five yards further forward, any tackle would not have conceded a penalty and cancelled the second-thoughts that caused inaction.

Simply put, the addition of Reo-Coker, the redeployment - and fluidity - of the midfield, and the sustained pressure that forced Toronto on their heels had not yet been adjusted to and they were caught sluggish.

In a match such as this, the first goal was always likely to be crucial, decisive even, as it turned out to be.