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By The Numbers: How TFC improved from set pieces in 2019

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How did Toronto FC stack up statistically in set pieces in 2019 compared to past years?

MLS: Toronto FC at New York City FC
Alejandro Pozuelo leads the TFC Set Piece Attack
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Martyn Bailey’s By the Numbers returns with his latest three-piece installment looking back at last season’s numbers and comparing how they stack up historically for Toronto FC. Enjoy Part 3 of 3 below. You can check out Part 1: Records to Build On here and Part 2: The Reds were on the clock here.

Okay. Let’s be honest with each other.

We’re in a safe place.

Set pieces haven’t always been Toronto FC’s “thing.”

In fact, for those of you who missed out on TFC 1.0 (I simultaneously pity you and also envy you more than you’ll ever know) this is a stat that perfectly encapsulates those years...

Of the first 21 penalties scored in TFC history, one was scored by the Reds and 20 were scored by their opponents.

So... things had to get better at some point, right?

Looking at 2019, Toronto converted six of nine penalty chances (Shhh! We’re not talking about the Voyageurs Cup yet!!)

No club is going to get t-shirts made to celebrate a 66.6 per cent success rate, but Alejandro Pozuelo going 6 for 7 definitely has things pointed in the right direction.

It was the fifth consecutive year that they’ve scored more than five goals from the spot, but it was also the fourth consecutive year that they’ve squandered more than three (Shhh!! We’re not talking about Guadalajara yet!!)

It leaves the club at 43 of 65 all time, which is 66.2 per cent—not great, but I assume that’s about where where you had them pegged in your head.

As I mentioned, Pozuelo and his magic hat should give us confidence heading into a full season in 2020. He has the highest success rate of any Red with more than two attempts.

Poor Sean Johnson had to face Pozuelo FOUR times last season alone! Although he did managed to save one chance, he’s now become the only keeper to allow more than three Toronto goals from the spot.

Traditionally, the other side of the coin has equally failed to shimmer for TFC.

Reds keepers have kept the oven mitts fairly clean over the years. But congruent with everything else TFC in 2019, the Reds’ story improved as the year proceeded.

Though Quentin Westberg conceded on this first four attempts, he eventually found his rhythm, and in the end, became the first Toronto FC keeper to prevent four goals (2 saves, 2 misses) — including this massive one against Atlanta United in the Eastern Conference Final.

Toronto’s opposition has now converted 80 of 95 (84.2 per cent). But through the first eight seasons they were 47 of 51 (92.2 per cent) and in the past five campaigns are just 33 of 44 (75 per cent). (Shhh!! We’re not talking about Seattle yet!!)

As I said with Pozuelo, there’s reason to enter 2020 with confidence knowing that Westberg should handle defending the spot kicks for the club.


Penalty Shootouts... :(

Okay. Now we can talk about the 2019 Voyageurs Cup, the 2018 CONCACAF Champions League, and the 2016 MLS Cup.

Shootouts.

Yes, Toronto is infamously one for four in shootouts.

And 0 for 3 in Finals.

When you combine the spot kicks from play with the ones from shootouts, TFC’s success rate drops to 65.5 per cent.

And their opponents success rate rises to 84.8 per cent.

But remember, TFC have outscored their opponents 6-0 in Extra Time historically. So it’s quite clear the strategy should be to avoid the spotters. Whenever possible.

Switching gears to Free Kicks for a moment...

Aren’t they pretty?

2019 was also the fifth season that Toronto FC had more than three goals from direct free kicks. (First touch, not flicked on by teammates—sorry Dwayne DeRosario & Jim Brennan).

Pozuelo and Altidore also became just the third and fourth players to score multiple FK goals for the club.

While Toronto FC conceded just once from the dead ball outside the box this year...

...and just the 19th such goal in club history...

...and Mitrita became the 19th different player to turn the trick.

And finally, since I always feel bad that he never gets on this list, please enjoy these highlights from 2010, when DeRo scores TWO second-touch FKs in the same match - 60’ and 90+4’. What a beauty!