Part One was posted yesterday, discussing their Lineup and Form
When discussing the threat posed by New York, one needs look no further than Thierry Henry.
Oft aloof, at times surly, and always straight-talking; regardless, the Frenchman, even at the age of 36, is still, without doubt, one of the best natural footballers in this league.
Skilled, intelligent, and industrious; his silky touch and imaginative vision belie just what a hulking physical presence he can be – perhaps one of the reasons he has, and will continue to do, well in MLS.
He scores goals, yes, three in nine matches this season and some 44 in 101 appearances all-time for New York, but what may comes as some surprise is how he has become an unselfish provider, racking up four assists already this season with 32 in his MLS career.
It is that team-first, anything to win motif that makes New York such a dangerous team – and if that doesn’t work he can always pull off a piece of single-handed magic, as he is wont to do.
But, so far this season, it has worked – a good portion of the credit for Bradley Wright-Phillips’ hot-streak must be apportioned to Henry
Watch how this past weekend against Chicago, Henry collects the ball in the centre-circle after some good New York pressure, blows past Jhon Kennedy Hurtado fading onto his left-foot.
Then, rather than having a go himself, he unselfishly picks out his teammate at the back-post for a relatively simple side-footed finish past a moving keeper:
Toronto FC will have to be very cautious in possession, should they push numbers forward in attack – no more of those poor defensive half-turnovers; lest the same thing happen on Saturday.
New York did nearly the exact same thing against Dallas – that Henry burns a defender, Walker Zimmerman, nearly half his age with a burst of speed is a credit to all creaky, thirty-somethings and an example of how knowing when and how to make a run and get body position is an art, one that can help elderly legs outwit younger ones.
But not all the credit can go to Henry, Wright-Phillips, who joined the club midway through last season, has made himself comfortable in his new surroundings.
In seven appearances in 2013, he scored one goal and provided a single assist – already this season (seven starts and ten appearances), he has racked up an impressive nine goals, all but one coming in the last four matches, including a pair of hat-tricks.
Striking, more than nearly any position, bar goalkeeper, is a confidence game, something about the clarity in the mind-body relationship that transmits the striker’s will into action – more chances come and the ball finds a way through.
And for now, Wright-Phillips has found that groove.
Consider the following goal, also from that cracking nine-goal affair against Chicago on the weekend. Peguy Luyindula sweeps the ball wide left to Eric Alexander, who hits a cross into the top of the area. Wright-Phillips dummies the service, which strikes Lloyd Sam in the chest and falls, intentionally or not, perfectly for Wright-Phillips:
Chicago keeper Sean Johnson has no chance on the fierce, opportunistic right-footed drive. Toronto will have to be on their toes to not let New York move the ball into that central area at the top of the box quite so easily.
And as if having a pair of such in-form strikers was not enough of concern, New York also has an awful lot of talent that will get the ball up to the front men.
In the above video, both Alexander and Sam factor in the play, as they did in this equalizer in Columbus, again scored by Wright-Phillips:
It was a devastatingly simple, sweeping move that opens up the Crew defenses with that cross-field ball, and then reverses play into the pocket created by the movement. Note how two Columbus defenders collapse on Henry, leaving Josh Williams alone to chase Wright-Phillips – and that is a pretty classy finish to boot.
Sam and Alexander are both capable of stretching the field wide – more pace from Sam, while Alexander operates with more of a subtle guile. While Luyindula, as against Chicago, and Dax McCarty, as in Dallas, help with that facet of the game through the middle.
Should he get the start, Kosuke Kimura was a weak spot worthy of exploitation in their match against Chicago.
He was fully abused by Harrison Shipp on the rookie’s third goal of the afternoon on the weekend – though the pass under pressure from Jamison Olave, did him few favours:
And the lack of a response from Armando stationary in the middle was appalling, though he did have to be concerned about a cutback to Quincy Amarikwa.
Kimura also lost track of his mark, Amarikwa, on the goal that started Chicago’s four-goal outburst in the second half, thanks to a wonderful ball over the back-line from Jeff Larentowicz:
The lack of pressure on the veteran Chicago midfielder, allowing him the time to lift his head and pick out the diagonal run from Amarikwa will no doubt have been discussed by Mike Petke in video session this week, but if they give that sort of time to Toronto’s midfielders, Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker, strikers Jermain Defoe and Gilberto should look to make those timely runs behind the line.
It is not just Kimura who has struggled on such plays.
The back-line has looked slow, as they did in this goal from Montreal Andres Romero, where Armando gets turned around and made to look the fool by Felipe’s pass:
And stationary, falling asleep at the wheel on Montreal’s second, allowing Felipe a free run between the centre-backs for this free header:
Those are deficiencies that both Defoe and Gilberto will feast on all day, while the rest of the Toronto side should look to constantly pressure the defenders when they are on the ball – Kimura’s error was only slightly worse than Armando’s gaff, allowing Patrick Nyarko to retrieve the ball after taking it away from Amarikwa, leading to Shipp’s second of the night:
Olave is the best of the bunch, but even he played a role with the back-pass that put Kimura under pressure in the first video.
Also of note, is that New York has conceded five penalty kicks this season, accounting for a good portion of their seventeen goals against, an indication of the scrambled nature of their defending.
Luis Robles has been known to stop a kick or two, but has not caught up to any this season. New York has also been awarded three penalty kicks, scoring twice.
Interestingly, the best time to beat New York is in the opening phases of each half – with nine of those seventeen goals against coming in those stages (four in the half and five in the second).
A bright start from Toronto will go a long way towards getting the result.
Points of Interest
The two clubs have met eighteen times in MLS with New York winning ten, Toronto four, and drawing another four matches.
Ten of those meetings have come in Toronto, where TFC has won three, lost three, and drawn four.
They met three times last season, with New York winning twice and the other resulting in a scoreless draw. The most recent meeting was a 2-0 win for New York at home on goals from Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola – it was a match that saw Jonathan Osorio suspended two matches for kicking the ball into the head of Kosuke Kimura.
New York is unbeaten in their last ten meetings against TFC (seven wins and three draws), stretching back to a 2-0 TFC win at home in 2009.