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4 things noticed in Toronto FC’s Decision Day win over the Columbus Crew

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The Reds will host a home playoff match at BMO Field... but how do they look heading into the late October tilt?

SOCCER: OCT 06 MLS - Columbus Crew SC at Toronto FC
Alejandro Pozuelo (10) of Toronto FC battles for the ball against Connor Maloney of Columbus Crew (31) during the first half of the MLS regular season match between Toronto FC and Columbus Crew on October 6, 2019, at BMO Field in Toronto, ON, Canada.
Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Toronto FC will host a home playoff game at BMO Field... how sweet does that sound?

With that said, however, there was still 90 minutes of action to break down at BMO Field, so here are four things we noticed shortly after the match Sunday afternoon.

Half-court trap

When Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney announced his starting XI, one thing that stood out to me was that midfielder Marky Delgado would be playing as a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jonathan Osorio sliding into Delgado’s usual spot next to captain Michael Bradley as a holding midfielder. While Delgado may not have the playmaking arsenal that some of the other TFC passers do from that position on the field — like Alejandro Pozuelo or Nicolas Benezet — he was able to still release Jozy Altidore with some through balls while serving his main purpose at that void: winning the ball back.

TFC have instilled this defending gameplan lately, and it has seemed to cause significant problems for several teams. The Reds will wait for the ball to get into their opposition’s holding midfielder, take away the pass back, and then pounce. Every pass after the original pass into the holding midfielder is closed down aggressively with a sprint from a TFC player, and for the most part has resulted in the Reds winning the ball back.

All of that starts with Marky Delgado — TFC’s best player at winning the ball back — playing higher in the midfield in order to put pressure and trap the opposition’s holding midfielder.

Was that Seba, or…?

When Alejandro Pozuelo put the ball down in the 57th minute to take a dead-centre free kick from roughly 20 yards out, the only thing running through my mind was that if we had Seba, he would’ve nailed this. Now that Seba is gone, Pozuelo is our new set piece specialist, and boy was he able to deliver in a big moment. Reminiscent of Seba’s freekick against Atlanta United on Decision Day a few years ago, the Spaniard stepped up confidently to the ball and elegantly placed it into the back of the net, sending those in the South Stands behind the ball into a frenzy. His celebration, running all the way to half and sliding on his knees, was pretty fun too. Good to see Poz step up in a big moment.

Beating a dead horse

After the match, Alejandro Pozuelo said he would do anything to help the team win. He also mentioned, a few times, that his best position — and most preferred position — would be to play through the middle of the park.

It’s annoying having to reiterate this, but how much more obvious can it be that Pozuelo is not a winger? Despite playing on the right wing isolated from a lot of the action, the Reds felt almost obligated to get their most talented player on the ball, thus his 40 touches (the third most on the team) in the opening 45’. However, most of those touches were “negative” touches, in the sense that they were simple passes back to his defenders after the space in front of him was cut down the line.

The Spaniard slows the game down on the wing, which is fine, but in MLS — and the way that Toronto FC are constructed — you need players who can push the pace down the line, especially during a potentially lethal counter-attack. Again, Pozuelo is best suited as a No. 10, creating in behind Jozy Altidore.

MOTM

While he wasn’t overly busy in this one, after leaving the game last week with an apparent head injury, Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg was essentially perfect Sunday afternoon, bouncing back against the Columbus Crew. When his name was called upon — like his crucial brave clearance in the first half, which caused another collision — the TFC netminder was there. It’s great to see Westberg in form heading into the post-season as he’ll need to be big if TFC want to make another deep run in the playoffs.