The game was no less chaotic, but Toronto FC will be much happier with the result after a 4-3 victory over their rival Montreal Impact.
All of the good things from the side’s tournament-opening draw against D.C. United were on display again today. But in a game where everything seemed to be amplified, so were a lot of the negatives as well. Both figure into the five things noticed from this match.
MOTM: Ayo Akinola is already breaking records
Ok, it’s not the most prestigious record in Toronto FC history, but per our Martyn Bailey, Akinola becomes the quickest player (three days) to have two multi goal games. After scoring both Toronto FC goals in the opener, Akinola added a hat trick tonight, the first in MLS play since Justin Morrow in 2017 for The Reds.
Once again he is making the all the right runs, demonstrating strong soccer intelligence, and is being rewarded by Pozuelo who has clearly relished having a willing runner behind the backline. When he is played into good positions, Akinola is physically dominant and his finishing has been absolutely clinical.
Toronto FC have needed a striker that fits this exact profile for some time, especially with Jozy Altidore’s inconsistent availability. If Akinola can stay consistent, Toronto FC’s attack instantly becomes both deeper and exponentially more dangerous.
The “Wizard of Poz”: Alejandro Pozuelo has been a magician so far this tournament
At some point, when Jonathan Osorio is healthy again, Greg Vanney is going to have to figure out what to do with his midfield. When that day comes, it is clear that one spot should be set in stone: Alejandro Pozuelo is the number 10.
He spent last season shifting between that position, at false-9 when Jozy Altidore was unavailable, and at winger. He was a decent stopgap and the 9, but got lost in the shuffle a lot when he played out wide and has made it clear attacking midfield is his position of choice.
The MLS is Back tournament has made it clear why. Alejandro Pozuelo assisted on all three of Toronto’s goals against Montreal and now has five assists at the tournament. His two-footed ability is far more dangerous when he is in the middle, and when he has runners in front of him. On top of this, Pablo Piatti and him have developed an instant chemistry which is good news to say the least.
Defending in transition remains a massive problem
Toronto FC are not a particularly quick team, nor are they a particularly young team. Michael Bradley doesn’t have the closing speed in central midfield that he used to, and he is far and away the most defensively minded player in the midfield.
As good as Toronto FC have been going forward at this tournament so far, one misplaced pass and the ball seems to find its way into the back of their net. The team seems to switch off quickly in transition, and it could end up being a massive issue if not dealt with quickly.
Moreover, the team once again wasn’t able to keep up their intensity over the full 90 minutes, and invited a lot of pressure later on in the game. A late goal from Ayo Akinola relieved a lot of that tension, but it was concerning nonetheless.
Another wild entry in the Impact - TFC history books
It looked different, and was certainly a lot quieter, than any other previous 401 derbies. The lack of fans might have removed a bit of the trademark nastiness that we have become used to seeing any time these two sides meet.
With that being said, this game was nothing if not entertaining. Both sides had plenty of chances throughout the match. Both spent periods in control of the game, which was a rollercoaster until the final whistle. It was clear from the second the Impact equalized after just 16 minutes that this game was going to have goals, and it did not disappoint.
Laryea picking up where he left off
Because of how well Auro has been playing on the right flank with Piatti and Pozuelo, it was Laryea who shifted over to the left for the injured Justin Morrow. The advantages of that move became clear just eight minutes into the match. Laryea cut in brilliantly from the wing and hit a brilliant low strike into the opposite corner to give the reds a 1-0 lead.
It is already his second goal of the year, which is a career high. Even if he likely isn’t starting in the club’s best eleven, this added versatility means that he is going to see minutes in almost every game Toronto plays at this tournament and beyond. His ability to play both fullback positions might be something John Herdman is watching closely, too.