Toronto FC had an opportunity to move into fourth place in the Eastern Conference yesterday, but unfortunately couldn’t take advantage of a desperate Chicago Fire side as the two teams played out to a 2-2 draw for the second time this season. Here are five things we noticed shortly after the game Sunday night.
1. Pozuelo is not a winger
For most of this game, Toronto FC looked overmatched and, quite frankly, outclassed. The Reds were giving away possession too cheaply, and when they did manage to keep the ball, there wasn’t enough numbers in support up top to gain valuable field position in the Chicago Fire half.
One of the problems for that was the positioning of Pozuelo, who started the game on the wing in TFC’s 4-3-3 formation. When Coach Greg Vanney elected to swap CAM Jonathan Osorio and LW Alejandro Pozuelo after the first half, the tempo of the match changed immediately. The Reds looked more treacherous at the centre of the park with their most dangerous player in possession, and even Osorio looked more comfortable on the wing where he could take defenders on 1v1.
That’s not the type of player Pozuelo is. The Spaniard likes to link up with his teammates and slow the game down as opposed to running at defenders. In a 4-3-3 with a static target-player like Jozy Altidore, however, you need wingers who can push the pace, find the space in front of them, and get the ball up the field. Pozuelo can put in very inviting crosses, but that’s pretty much all you’re going to get out of the designated player if he’s lined up on the wing — and he’s too good to just do that.
He finished the game with the third-most touches on the ball out of TFC’s midfield, one more than Osorio. With the return of Nicolas Benezet imminent, all signs point to Poz sliding back to the centre of the park.
2. Sorrow without Morrow
As good as Auro Jr. and to an extent Ashtone Morgan had been at covering the left flank with U.S. International Justin Morrow absent over the past month or so, boy did I miss Morrow’s ability to deliver a quality ball into the box. Whether it be Benezet or Pozuelo, the left back isn’t shy to get forward and overlap his left winger to give his team options moving ahead. Both of those players, who tend to play on the left wing, are the types of attackers to slow the game down and play inbetween the lines. A player like that is more than likely to cut inside leaving plenty of room down the line for Morrow to get forward.
While Toronto FC’s fullbacks — and even Tsubasa Endoh and Erickson Gallardo — have struggled to find an end product on their deliveries into the box, Morrow is consistently able to put good balls into dangerous areas for Altidore to attack. I noticed this when he came on at half time against Montreal midweek for Ashtone Morgan and completely changed the game. Even on Sunday, the 31-year-old, who will turn 32 next week, led all players in crosses. He’s a real asset for Toronto on both sides of the ball.
3. Turning Point
There were a lot of different smaller turning points in this match, but for me, this one changed dramatically when Altidore was taken off in the 65th minute for Patrick Mullins — an eyebrow raiser after the striker found the back of the net just five minutes earlier. I’m a fan of Mullins, but with that change, the Reds lost their momentum and ability to keep possession in the attacking third.
Mullins is the type of player who only needs a half chance to make something happen. He’s very aggressive, direct, and possesses a natural knack for finding the back of the net as we saw when he came close to scoring twice Sunday night. But with that said, Mullins lacks a lot elsewhere in terms of keeping the ball and playing simpler, things that are crucial for withstanding a press. You can’t use Mullins as a target player in the same sense that you use Altidore: if he’s alone and you find the forward, the odds are the opposing defender will win the ball back.
Without Altidore on the field, Toronto were susceptible to consistent waves of offensive onslaughts from the Fire, something you can’t withstand for 30 minutes straight and expect to win. Take it with a grain of salt, however, as more than likely, we won’t be seeing that sub made in the post-season.
4. Milestone Monday
First off, shout out Martyn Bailey for all of our stats.
Now, last night, after Quentin Westberg left the game due to inury, Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono appeared in his 100th match for the Reds, passing Stefan Frei and setting a new club record. It obviously wasn’t the way that he wanted to celebrate the moment, as minutes after coming on Chicago found the back of the net, but nevertheless, Bono’s appearance was an iconic moment in club history.
Words cannot describe how grateful I am never would have believed you if you told me 5 years ago that I’d play games for this fantastic club.. I love you, Toronto ❤️ https://t.co/ebNZCsM5F2— Alexander Bono (@Alex25Bono) September 30, 2019
The 2017 treble-wining starting GK has been displaced of his starting role by Westberg this season, and prior to tonight’s match, appearance no. 100 felt like a long shot after notching No. 99 in the Voyageurs Cup Finals on Wednesday. But as a professional — especially as a keeper — you need to stay ready because you never know when your number will be called. He started of shaky, but made some key saves at the end to salvage a point for TFC. While I know he’s heard his fair share of grief from the fans, but I, for one, am happy for Bones.
Another Milestone accomplished by one of the Reds yesterday was done by no other than Omar Gonzalez, whose first goal as a member of TFC came exactly how we envisioned: off a towering corner. With all of the momentum on Chicago’s side, goals like these ones are going be critical for the Reds. If you play FIFA, you know much a corner-kick goal can shift a tie.
With his goal, Gonzalez also became the 17th different TFC player to score this season, setting a new club record. How times have changed without Seba.
Yesterday’s game was agonizing to watch at times. It involved one of the most boring first halves that I’ve ever seen, but on the road, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for the Reds.
There were a lot of inconsistent performances yesterday, but in my opinion, one player who was consistent was Marky Delgado for Toronto FC in the midfield. Tasked with winning the ball back and keeping possession in a vital part of the field, Delgado strung together more passes and had more tackles than any other midfield player in the game. He also had the second-most touches in TFC’s midfield, just one behind captain Michael Bradley. Delgado even linked up with U.S. teammate Altidore on his goal, winning the ball back, dishing to the striker, and collecting the loan assist on the play.
When Delgado is quiet in possession but working relentless off the ball, he’s at his best. And last night, in a game where it was tough to develop any sort of rhythm, Delgado was at his near-best.