I hope you all had a great Easter Sunday, I wanted to give you all a day to get the game against the Chicago Fire off your minds. That's because I'm now probably going to say things that will make you panic. Like the fact that Toronto has a goal differential in their last three games of -4, letting in 7 and scoring 3. To recap, the Toronto FC lost to the Chicago Fire 3-2 on the road which furthers Toronto's woes at Toyota Park, where they have yet to win. Overall, the game was very close up until Warren Creavalle forgot he wasn't a rugby player and got his second yellow in the 68th minute. I say it was close in that Toronto kept it close score wise; in terms of play, I feel that Toronto was outplayed.
When A Fire Is More Of A Simmer
It seemed like people liked how I broke down the goals in the Real Salt Lake game, so I'll do so here. The first goal for Toronto was what Toronto needs to be doing. I can't break that down any more than that everyone on the team got involved and created beautiful ball movement. Picture's don't do it justice, only video. The second goal we can analyze deeper.
This is the rush seconds before the second goal. Yes it’s a two against six, but this came after a midfield interception by Benoit Cheyrou, so they couldn’t really have the big rush that they wanted, not with everyone playing so deep to cover for their backline’s weakness. Look at all that open space and look at all those heads staring at Sebastian Giovinco. Keep that in mind as we go forward about seven seconds.
That open man in the middle there that isn't Jonathan Osorio, it's the French Flash, Benoit Cheyrou. That open space we saw in the last frame was something he noticed, and he took advantage of the fact nobody was marking him specifically. I guarantee you that those Fire defenders had no idea who Giovinco was passing to. The only person who noticed was Joevin Jones, number 3, on the Fire but he ran at Cheyrou way too late. This is a case where Toronto took advantage of the fact that the Fire got used to how deep Toronto were playing and didn't really consider the open space they were leaving. This is the type of play that one Jozy Altidore should be making, where is he even in this play? Giovinco made a meal out of what is basically three people on the rush, Toronto needs to create more pressure on the rush or at least have their forwards in helpful positions. Findley serves as a great distraction, but he's not really doing much with this play directly. The club can take this as what they should be doing more often because this team could be very dangerous with a more organized counter attack.
We Didn't Stop The Fire
Here is the first few seconds before the Fire's first goal and this is really all that you need to see.
Shaun Maloney kicked the ball back towards Joevin Jones, a defender, and honestly you’d think this wouldn’t have turned into a goal. Joevin’s covered by Robbie Findley and Nick Hagglund is still there to theoretically stick a foot in. However, watching the rest of the goal, Hagglund literally stops in his tracks and Findley just slows down and lets him around. What I find about soccer is that no man should be given a lot of space in the final third. That open space in front of Joevin right now? It’s all his, and he made sure to use it since he now has no pressure or obstacles. Nobody steps in front of him, and he’s got enough space to take the shot that he did. Was Bendik in bad position? You can say that. However, I didn’t even think Joevin would get out of this situation with the ball even. Toronto’s defensive effort put Bendik in a bad situation.
Now as for the second goal, the shot itself was not the problem. The ball goes between what seems like 6000 people's legs and Bendik gets caught by surprise. The problem I had was with the defensive set up.
That's Harrison Shipp with the ball. Honestly, this looks like some pretty solid marking right? David Accam is basically double teamed, not many people in the box, everyone is accounted for. Everything is cool, we got this... seconds later...
I did not Photoshop in Shaun Maloney, who is on the left, I promise. Hagglund looks completely unaware until the cross gets to Maloney. It’s hard to say if Hagglund was even considering him because the camera was so focused on the other side of the field, but he makes a move to cut off David Accam before the ball gets over his head. This was like last week, not being aware on tracking back and defending crosses. This means Maloney having a ton of space to move around since Hagglund is too late to really get on him, and Maloney can therefore get a shot off. Toronto really does need a few weeks of practicing covering crosses because yes the cross was really accurate, but when it catches you completely off guard like this, that really doesn’t and hasn’t boded too well. I would even argue that given Harrison Shipp’s crossing reputation, he had way too much room to make that. Regardless, Toronto gets beaten on another cross.
The third goal came from a free kick after the Warren Creavalle red card. Bendik goofed up here and took too many steps to the right and placed himself just out of reach of the kick that would hit the left side. I don't know if he thought the ball would go over the wall, but looking at how much open space is in front of him, he probably shouldn't have shaded over THAT much.
Passing without a cause
I am of the belief that possession is one of the most useless stats to base a performance off of. The Fire had 36% possession, but they used the most out of each chance whereas Toronto really wasted a lot of time setting up plays that wouldn't turn into anything. Any threatening play would always fall dead trying to get into the final third, which can be seen in the passing charts.
So look at the area around the final third up top for the successful passes on the right, it’s almost like there’s a force field around the center. This would be fine if I knew they were setting up crosses, but Toronto only had one successful cross on the day. On the left are the unsuccessful passes, and most of them are moving towards that center area and they are mainly up in the opposing half. Toronto had a higher passing percentage, but most of the passes were just back and forth in the middle, not really developing into anything. When the time came to make a dangerous pass, either there was miscommunication on the play or it would just go straight to a Fire defender. The first goal they scored is a testament to what they could do when they pass with a purpose and pass with a killer instinct for a goal.
We need to go deeper
As I said before on the goal Toronto scored, they had nobody on the attack because everyone was so deep. At the game, one of the fans I was around remarked at how deep Bradley was playing and I'm inclined to agree with unnamed fan. He basically played as a center back this game, which is really a waste of his ability. Yes he can shut it down, but when he can't be a playmaker because he wants to limit how much he has to run back and forth it really messes up the system. I don't know if Toronto is purposely doing this, but it is clearly not working for them. This kind of deep play is what you do when you have a strong backline. Toronto need to play towards their strengths more, which I think would have been easier to do or find out had they started together more in the preseason. Now there's a chemistry experiment in the beginning of the season that more work could have been done on before it started.
Where In The World Is Jozy Altidore?
In the Vancouver analysis article, I said that this season was going to be dependent on Altidore's confidence. Now you see what I mean. Sure being down a man for an extra 20 minutes will cut into how far you push up for a team that already plays deep, but he was practically invisible. His one shot he had in the 16th minute was a slow roller that went straight to the keeper and when he did contribute to the first goal, he was jogging to the box. The plays I did notice him try to set up, he'd often throw his hands up or yell when the ball got intercepted or was misplaced. I don't know whether that was Chicago's defensive effort or if it was Altidore not feeling it or if it was both, but for Toronto to get to the level they want to get to, they need to get him opportunities. He's a tall man, and he can feed off crosses. Unfortunately, this game he didn't get any ones he could make something out of and it just seemed like his effort to make an opportunity wasn't there. Greg Vanney's got some thinking to do as to how he can make use of what should be one of his most dangerous weapons.
The Bottom Line About The Backline
The search for how to solidify the right side of the back line continues and it's really affecting the team. The other two on the back line are constantly having to adjust for the mistakes that the right side make, which means the team has to help them, which means the team can't do what they really need to do. Case and point, Warren Creavalle, who really messed up the score line with his red card. If you had a hole in your boat, that you fixed kind of, you'd always be scared about that hole when you're out on the water right? That's probably what I figure Toronto is having to deal with. The left side isn't exactly safe either, in general, Toronto's not gifted at defending so far. I really can't tell you what it will take because every week it seems to be something new, other than the whole not being able to defend crosses. There are four defenders on the injury list; Steven Caldwell, Damien Perquis, Mark Bloom and Eriq Zavaleta. I've got to think that having any of these guys back will help things out, especially Mark Bloom, and hopefully the upcoming bye week will help them out with that.
Wrap it up like a long Oscar speech
Toronto is now sitting in 8th right now, which is not where I thought they would be. Yes, there is still time to fix the season, but Toronto really needs to pick it up in what is looking to be a wild Eastern Conference. They aren't as explosive as they should be, and this upcoming bye week is the perfect time to figure out what is wrong. The standing position right now isn't what's worrying though, it's the effort and it's the fact that the team seemed to have gotten worse since the start of the season. Sidebar: I met a few Toronto FC fans at the game and they were extremely nice, hopefully I'll get to come to Toronto for a game.