Turns out that Toronto FC don't need more depth up front, nor in the centre of midfield. If Toronto FC management want to raise their team to the heights expected of them all they have to do is add a bunch of new players named Bradley. While Michael Bradley was off preparing for the World Cup, Bradley Orr picked up both his position, and the slack. It was Orr's best performance of the campaign, sitting just in front of the defence and contributing both offensively and defensively.
"With Michael Bradley not being available, it was pretty big shoes to fill," said Orr of his namesake. "I don't think anyone here could fill those shoes. But you've just got to do your best."
Orr's finest moment was a quality ball through to Jermain Defoe for Toronto's opening goal in a 2-0 home victory over the New York Red Bulls. The win was Toronto's first at home since their March 22 home opener, and their fourth of the season. Luke Moore had the other goal in his MLS debut.
As for Defoe, the goal was his first since learning he had not made the English National Team for the World Cup. But it complimented an inspired performance. The designated player was once again a spark offensively, creating a number of chances for the club. He appears ready to prove Roy Hodgson wrong for not selected him as part of the England 23.
"It's only normal when you get disappointment to try and prove people wrong," said Defoe of his performance.
As New York struggled to score late in the match they made a number of tackles and pushes on Defoe, who had forced them to play on edge throughout the entire match. This left manager Ryan Nelsen unhappy, as he hoped the league would do more to protect his star striker.
"I would have liked to think that Jermain could have gotten protected a bit more," said Nelsen. "[Thierry] Henry's had some protection over the years, so I hope that they start protecting Jermain."
Tactically, Nelsen deserves plenty of praise for making several bold decisions, all of which seemed to pay off. As aforementioned, Orr was superb in a defensive midfield role, and will likely play there again. Nick Hagglund was an inexperienced risk to play centreback against two of the league's elite strikers but was ultimately the right decision. Even the bench, something Nelsen has struggled to utilize, worked out for him on this occasion with Moore opening his MLS account.
But the move Nelsen will receive the most credit for was his decision to play Orr in the centre of midfield, something he explained was a risk.
"He's played there before, but many moons ago," explained Nelsen. "But this is why we signed him, you can put him anywhere on the field and he'll play a role for you. A very good role for you."
Defensively, this was another solid effort for Toronto against two of the best strikers in the league in Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Justin Morrow and Mark Bloom were both very good down the flanks, stopping New York from playing wide on several occasions. The ghost of Julian De Guzman pitched in as well, possessing Wright-Phillips to send New York's best chance of the match well over the bar.
Steven Caldwell was his usual self, captaining the back line to their third clean sheet of the season. Meanwhile, Joe Bendik looks primed and ready as he begins his stretch as Toronto's number one keeper. Nelsen confirmed that Julio Cesar has played his last match with the club prior to the World Cup.
It was Nick Hagglund, however, who stood out the most on the Toronto backline. Starting in place of Doneil Henry, who according to Hagglund has "a couple of knocks", the rookie looked nothing like that title, playing a fantastic match. He made several excellent plays under pressure, and played his role to near perfection as the New York Red Bulls were rarely able to beat him.
"I was surprised that I got the call," said Hagglund of receiving a spot in the starting eleven. "I was pretty tired from the Vancouver game, playing at rightback running up and down the line. But I got the call up and did my job."
The midfield was also far better in this match, especially in a first half that they dominated. Kyle Bekker was more adventurous with his passing, playing a number of long balls, and nearly scored himself. Jonathan Osorio, who Nelsen says plays best on the wing, once again took up that role and did a decent job in it.
Alvaro Rey and substitute Daniel Lovitz both showed flashes of ability and positivity going forward, especially with the latter almost scoring late in the match, but ultimately neither were incredibly effective.
It's been a while since Toronto FC had something truly positive to celebrate, even the Voyageurs Cup victory came with a grain of salt, but on this occasion they displayed confidence that they can get results without their star player. They will need it, as next week will be an even biggest test against the defending MLS Cup champion, Sporting Kansas City.