The Reds did not seem in the mood for parlour tricks, as for 90 minutes they teed off on a witless Vancouver side in the home opener.
Coming into the match, TFC was well aware of the disappointment that came with their early exit from the MLS Is Back tournament. On Tuesday night that chip on their shoulder was palpable, as was their determination.
Within minutes of kick-off the Reds had assumed control of the game. They were moving with purpose and celerity around the field, their passing brisk, their momentum building quickly. As a team they were focused, and clearly not pleased to have had their good name doubted.
Alejandro Pozuelo and Pablo Piatti were gelling well at the top of the pitch, completely deciding the pace of the attack. Michael Bradley was a renewed presence in the middle, anchoring every movement of Toronto’s. And even the defence, which saw a few daring opposing attempts, were quick to tighten up and shut down affronts. TFC was looking poised, capable, and hungry.
On the topic of affronts, Vancouver struggled to build any meaningful drive throughout the first half. Save for the few aforementioned chances, they were unable to loosen Toronto’s suffocating grasp, who dictated nearly every facet of the match early on.
And yet, despite all their dominance, the score was still equal. It’s commonplace to see Toronto dominate possession and get several chances early in a game. It is also commonplace for Toronto to tie or lose games that they controlled. And as if understanding all of this, and as if right then realizing a goal was imperative, Pablo Piatti, the much hyped designated player who has been only okay thus far for Toronto, did something almost literary.
At the 27th minute, after a quick in-pass, Piatti collected the ball, moved unintuitively back outside of the enemy defensive line, turned, and let loose a thunderous strike.
By the end of the first half, the Reds were basically living in Whitecaps’ box, who struggled to truly get anything going and were hustling just to maintain a semblance of an ordered defence. However, TFC could not find another, and the first half ended 1-0.
Vancouver opened up the second half with a bit more verve. They moved with heightened pace and even had an early scoring chance. However, their enthusiasm did not last, and their energy was eventually submerged by TFC’s. Soon things were looking very similar to the first half with Toronto on the attack and Vancouver on the defence.
At the 54th minute Pablo Piattio struck again. With the Reds laying calm siege to Vancouver’s box, a series of crisp passes found their way through the Whitecaps’ defence and right to Piatti’s feet who—as if to punish Vancouver for trying—neatly slotted it into the net.
What followed is a protracted version of what’s classically known as a shooting gallery. Every time Vancouver would try to move past half they would be quickly overwhelmed and Toronto would transition it into an attack where the Reds would take turns passing and shooting.
At the 82nd minute the inevitable happened. Coming off the bench, Nick DeLeon and Pozuelo had a neat back and forth through the Vancouver defence which culminated in a slick curling shot by the keeper and into the back of the net.
The match ended much as it began. Vancouver could not pay for for their wits in the contest and were outmatched absolutely throughout.
Toronto looked very strong in their opener. The wingers had strong games with Richie Laryea looking particularly good on the night. In fact, the Reds’ attack as a whole was quite a threat, although the obvious standout was Piatti and his twin goals. The defence—lately notorious for strong starts and finnicky ends—was not really challenged on the night, though it did look solid. The return of Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio was also welcome. Both looked good, if not terribly outstanding.
Overall, it was a stunner of a start for Toronto FC. Though not terribly challenged, they showed will and grit, and should be very pleased with their work on the night.