After the wholesale dismantling of their Canadian rival in the home opener, the Reds stood poised for another victory on Friday. Still, Vancouver’s showing a few days earlier was so poor that it would be hard for them not to improve in some manner coming into the rematch.
From the first whistle the Whitecaps seemed intent on establishing a more confident tone. They were moving with more fluidity and their players were more composed. Despite this, it was TFC who looked a tad bit sharper and in better control early on, able to make inroads more consistently toward the net. At the 14th minute, Toronto proved this to be true.
In a moment reminiscent of the match some nights ago, TFC had a established a strong perimeter around Vancouver’s box. A neat run in by Pablo Piatti ended with the deflected ball at the feet of Richie Laryea, whose laser-accurate shot found the corner of the net.
The opening goal destabilized Vancouver. A few minutes later a transition break almost gave Toronto a second goal courtesy of Piatti himself, were it not for a strong save by the Whitecaps keeper Thomas Hasal. The game soon began to look a lot like the home opener. Toronto, while not dominating Vancouver as thoroughly, was in command. They were constantly pressuring and getting decent chances.
In the 36th minute, a spot of poor defending — wherein a weak touch by Liam Fraser almost allowed a breakaway had he not committed a deliberate yellow card to stop it — gave the Whitecaps some life. Heretofore they had scarcely seen Toronto’s end. But TFC’s experience allowed them to simmer the swell of momentum until the end of the half.
The second half found TFC again in the role of conductor, although the lethality their attack possessed in the home opener was missing. While Vancouver looked a more coherent team since last match, they also looked confused as to how to genuinely create scoring chances and not just happen into a fortuitous situation. All of which created a sleepy, interminable spirit in the match.
By the 70th minute game had devolved into a repeated situation of watching Toronto outpass Vancouver all the way to their box, only to deliver an ultimately haphazard go at net.
In the 86th minute, a foul in front of the Toronto box elicited long-suffered feelings of won games blown for few valid reasons. Thankfully for the Reds, the ensuing Whitecaps’ free kick was rather colourless. However, the situation is a familiar, and anxious, one for Toronto.
In the end the plodding game ended much as it was expected to, with TFC well and truly walking away with a 1-0 victory over Vancouver.
Toronto’s defence, and Westberg especially, have had quite little to contend with in the two matches against Vancouver. Chris Mavinga’s speed afforded him strong advantage against a team like the Whitecaps, though special mention must go to Auro for a game of beautiful distribution and some worthy attempts at goal as well.
Michael Bradley was a sturdy as ever in the centre, as was Alejandro Pozeulo (whose pass to Mullins in the 62nd minute was pure class), while Pablo Piatti seems to be settling into his hybrid playmaker-attacker role. Osorio has found decent positioning since his return, but has fumbled some key scoring chances. Patrick Mullins continues to move and play with direction on the pitch during his substitutions, although he will certainly be thinking about Pozeulo’s pass in bed tonight.
Overall, TFC is looking strong, and will be expecting a good performance in their upcoming matches against Montreal. That being said, Vanney will certainly be wanting less mercy out of his offence — especially against better teams — as allowing a single point lead against a clearly inferior squad is become a cautionary tale in Toronto. Further, he will also be keeping one eye on the defence, whose job will not be so easy against keener opponents.