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Morning After: Analysis of TFC's loss to Columbus

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Jake Payne explains the tactics and tactical issues behind Toronto FC's 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew.

Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

The song "Let It Go" could have been applied to the questionable call in the 45th minute, after Justin Morrows red card, but it seems that the team couldn't. Honestly being down a man isn't the end of the world, as seen when Paris Saint Germain went down a man this weekend and still pulled off a win, but several factors played into why Toronto FC crumbled against the Columbus Crew on Saturday night.

All Hail Lord Bendik

Toronto FC wasn’t exactly dominating the first half before the "unfair" red card. Columbus was very much in control of this game from the beginning and didn’t let go, which was contrary to the game last week where Vancouver’s effort began to dwindle. Columbus got their chances and kept hammering at the goal until it all caved in. That wall they were hammering away at was mainly Joe Bendik. I firmly believe that if he didn’t have the kind of game that he did, the score would have been way more lopsided. The Crew got 21 shots, with 7 on target. Yes, 11 shots he didn’t get to face, but that still shows how constantly ready he had to be.

Source: MLSSoccer.Com

That shot chart looks frightening. The two goals let in were by no means his fault, he stood firm when the responsibility fell on him. The five saves he made and the individual effort he showed is going to be overlooked by the score and by the red card call, but assuming his back line can get it together and take some of the heat off his shoulders, he and the fans will probably feel much better.

I mean, he made a save in the sixth minute so good, even Kei Kamara had to congratulate him.

You Get Back On Defense, You Get Back On Defense, Everyone Get Back On Defense

To weather the storm that was the Columbus Crew’s attacking efforts, everyone, including Altidore, had to get back and provide some help. If you remember what I said last week, I said that this team is going to have a heavy reliance on making the midfield set up the forward since Toronto FC’s midfield is incredibly gifted at creating plays and moving the ball forward. Yes, you can have Altidore back playing defense, but I feel that he would be better utilized in only occasionally tracking back. Toronto also did what all ten men team should do and stayed back trying to cut off chances. The second half’s passing charts looked like this:

Toronto’s plan was pretty simple in the second; get the ball to Warren Creavalle and counter. Unfortunately, that could only work for so long because looking at the crosses and passes in and around the final third, things either missed or didn’t even get to the area. The midfield couldn’t get a good countering effort going, and while this game is tough to use as what can happen going forward, they’re going to have to at least figure out what they want to do to free up the midfield’s responsibility. This game missed the Giovinco/Altidore connection, hopefully they’ll sync up against Real Salt Lake.

Personally, I Prefer The Air

Toronto looked mystified when it came to air play. The two goals let in came from great crosses, but they looked great mainly because of poor marking. Nobody rose to challenge Justin Meram or Kei Kamara and I was going to look up how the height difference of the team could have affected this, but height had nothing to do with these goals. They happened mainly because nobody even saw them come into the box. I think that will be something to watch, regardless of how many men Toronto had, because their marking when it came to those goals were pretty mystifying.

Looking at the first goal, Warren Creaville looked like he fell asleep and didn’t try to get in front of the incoming cross at all. The second goal was a bit harder to watch because look at all that wide open pasture that Toronto FC gave Waylon Francis. Warren Creaville had a "oh crap" moment and tried to stop the cross but couldn’t make up the ground fast enough. Meanwhile, inside the box, Damien Perquis had a moment of "do I stop Kamara since I am in front of him or do I stop the cross?" and I’m not really sure what he chose. He cut towards the ball which left Kamara wide open. I don’t know if he thought Francis was going to make the short pass to Meram, who was also headed towards the goal, but Nick Hagglund was already by him. Either way, Toronto looked baffled by crosses late on in this game, they are going to have to work on air control down the line.

So Overall…

Toronto had a tough game to play because of being down a man and the change in tactics associated with that, but they didn’t look particularly fantastic in the first half either. I also don’t mean to take anything away from Columbus, who had a very good game and worked with their possession well. Now that Toronto’s been taken down a peg after the first week match against the Whitecaps, things might be in perspective now of what they need to do. Unfortunately, for a second week, what to do with the back line continues to be a question and if Morrow can’t reverse his red card appeal, they’ll have a game against a vicious Real Salt Lake team with the left side’s chemistry in question as well. Altidore playing back isn’t bad either, especially since he had to in this game, but he needs the chances to work with and his midfield can’t give those chances to him if they are always running back to correct defensive mistakes.