Before today Toronto FC were winless to start the 2017 season, now they can be considered undefeated. A 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps capped off a short, at least relative to the last two seasons, but successful season opening road trip.
The win means Toronto collected five points, a win and two draws, in three road games. They were able to get three straight results in some difficult venues, and under some less than ideal conditions.
Toronto didn’t face that kind of adversity today, however. In fact, the Whitecaps were a pretty hospitable host for their visitors. Toronto FC were on the front foot for most of the match, enjoying 57.9 per cent of possession.
Toronto did precious little with that possession for most of the match, as neither team created very many chances in a game that was often a snoozefest. It may have ended that way, if Vancouver, Brek Shea specifically, hadn’t made things even easier on Toronto.
Shea lost his head after receiving a yellow card for a foul on Nick Hagglund. He proceeded to make the bone-headed decision of saying something derogatory to the official, which earned him a second yellow. Dissent towards officials is something MLS is looking to crack down on, and rightly so.
Vancouver going down to 10 men, combined with a pair of Toronto FC substitutions, changed the game. Seeing that his side was struggling to create offence, Greg Vanney added Victor Vazquez and Raheem Edwards to the mix. The results were instant.
Vazquez, in particular, was superb after replacing Armando Cooper, scoring his first goal in a TFC shirt to give his side the lead. All but two of the 23 pass attempts he made after being introduced found their target. This included one that was key to the second Toronto goal, and another that almost resulted in a goal for Justin Morrow.
That takes nothing away from Edwards, however, who also made a strong impression off the bench. The 21-year-old Canadian certainly made a case to get more playing time in the future, and looks to be yet another impact sub at Vanney’s disposal. He recorded his first MLS assist when his cross found Jozy Altidore in the box, who nodded the ball into the path of Vazquez.
Altidore himself was once again Toronto’s best performer, a constant on this road trip. While the team around him has had their struggles, Altidore put in a strong performance in all three road games. He doubled Toronto’s lead minutes after the Vazquez goal after turning the Whitecaps’ defense.
Fellow designated player Michael Bradley didn’t end up on the scoresheet, but still led the way for Toronto with 94 pass attempts. Only some suspect finishing from TFC’s attackers kept his five key passes (passes that lead to a shot) from ending up as assists. His accurate long balls (he was 11 for 13) in particular caused all kinds of problems for the Whitecaps backline.
After that performance Toronto FC will come home with plenty of confidence, ready to open their home schedule on March 31. The club is still a cheap imitation of what it has been in the past, something that can only be expected at this early stage, but has still managed to get three solid results. There is still plenty of work to be done, but that in itself proves that Toronto FC remain on the right track.