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Eriq Zavaleta a key part of Toronto FC’s clean sheet on Saturday

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No. 15 might have taken a step ahead of Nick Hagglund in the defensive pecking order.

MLS: Toronto FC at Real Salt Lake Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

I won’t dive too deep into this because I have a feeling it’s going to become an ongoing talking point, but a rewatch of Saturday’s Toronto FC match at Real Salt Lake illustrated Eriq Zavaleta’s contribution towards the Reds’ clean sheet.

In the first half in particular, Zavaleta did pretty much everything right in containing Joao Plata. He stepped out of the back line to make challenges at the right time:

He’s also deceptively quick, especially over the first 10 yards or so, and had few issues keeping up with Plata when he attempted to make runs behind the defence.

When a teammate (a combination of Clint Irwin and Nick Hagglund, in this case) made a mistake that left the defence exposed, he was on the scene in no time:

Later on in the first half Moor was the culprit, but again Zavaleta anticipated the danger well:

There was a lot of what Moor does well in Zavaleta’s performance; sound decision-making, smart positioning and economy of movement were the hallmarks of an effective display.

That’s not to say it was perfect. The whole team looked gassed due to the altitude around the 70-minute mark - TFC did not really steady the ship until Marky Delgado came on as a pair of fresh legs - and Plata could have punished Zavaleta for dropping a yard too deep for RSL’s best chance of the match.

Overall, though, it was a solid start to his season. It is obvious Chris Mavinga has been signed to play on the left side of the back three, leaving Zavaleta and Hagglund to battle it out for the spot to the right of Moor. Hagglund did not play badly by any means, but Zavaleta might have his nose in front at the end of week one.