TORONTO, Canada—Toronto FC made it six points out of six on Friday night, picking up their second win in four days over west-coast foes Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney once again opted to start a strong starting XI, making one change which was fitting for an all-Canadian classic.
While the match itself was anything but a classic, the Reds still managed to walk away with the full three points and inch closer to the Columbus Crew SC, who currently hold a one-point lead over the second-place TFC in the MLS standings.
Here are five takeaways from Toronto’s 1-0 win over Vancouver Friday night.
#FreeLiam—Fraser gets a rare start
Liam Fraser is one of the brightest young talents in Canadian soccer, but doesn’t always get the chance to show it.
His patience was rewarded on Friday night, as he was given his first start of the season, and the midfielder put in an impressive performance. Starting in central midfield alongside Michael Bradley, Fraser dropped into a right centre-back position for a lot of the match.
This allowed Auro to move high up the right side, and Richie Laryea up the left, essentially creating a back three at times, with Fraser as a ball-playing centre-back.
He was solid defensively throughout the match, with the only major hiccup occurring when he pulled down Russell Teibert, and was booked for a professional foul, but overall, he put in a good shift.
Unbeaten streak continues
With the win, Toronto FC’s club-record unbeaten streak in MLS regular season matches has now reached 17 games, going 8-0-9 over that span without a loss.
They haven’t lost a regular season MLS game in over a year, with their last defeat coming on August 3, 2019 against the New York Red Bulls, a span of 384 days.
“Our group is pretty mature, we ‘ve got some really young guys who have come through the academy and some veteran guys who have played a lot of games together,” said Vanney after the match when asked about the team’s recent run. “A lot of things click into natural gear quickly. Guys were motivated to play coming in from the stoppage and after getting to the final last year. There is a lot of motivation in our group to be successful this year.”
TFC are now just two games back of tying the Columbus Crew (2004-05) for the longest streak ever in MLS (19 games).
Richie Laryea adds to his goal tally
15’ TOR 1 - 0 VAN@RichieLaryea_ gives the Reds the early lead!#TFCLive | #TORvVANpic.twitter.com/aawHvm9gFY— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) August 22, 2020
Richie Laryea has established himself as a brilliant left back for Greg Vanney this season, especially going forward in attack. Laryea had scored only one MLS goal coming into this year, but with his goal tonight, is up to three on the season.
He scored one before the season was interrupted, one at the MLS is Back tournament, and another after a great shot from the edge of the area tonight.
“It was a good build up down the right side,” said Laryea after the match, looking back on his goal. “I was pinching in to help with the transition ... and I didn’t have anyone near me so I was able to push forward a little bit more. I was able to get the ball in front of me and it landed nicely for me, and I was able to put it in the back post.”
With the play of Auro Jr. and now the Canadian international, suddenly depth at full-back isn’t a problem anymore for
Richie Laryea deciding that Alphonso Davies isn't going to play left back for #canmnt wasn't how I thought that debate would end.— Name (@RoterTodFooty) August 22, 2020
Pozuelo leads MLS in assists
Alejandro Pozuelo is a wizard in the midfield at times, and with his assist tonight, he extends his lead atop Major League Soccer with seven helpers. He’s three above Sporting KC’s Alan Pulido, who has four assists in his first MLS campaign.
Now just imagine if the Reds could finish half of the chances that he creates.
63’ | “He sees things no one else sees.”— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) August 22, 2020
Nearly a second on the night.
1-0 | #TORvVAN | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/Ki69igruVe
After playing for almost 16 months in a row after joining Toronto FC from Genk in Belgium, Pozuelo looked tired by the end of the 2019 season, but after a rested offseason (and an extended break because of the COVID-19 pandemic), Pozuelo looks as fit and as rested as he ever has in MLS.
If he can keep up this level of performance for the rest of the season, he—and Toronto FC—will be a force to be reckoned with.
TFC take early lead in 2020 Canadian Championship
Through two…#CanChamp | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/gJqYeCOfYJ— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) August 22, 2020
With a second win in as many games, Toronto FC are in pole position for a spot in the Canadian Championship final under the new format.
In addition to league points being up for grabs, the Canadian MLS club (Toronto FC, Vancouver, and Montreal Impact) that accumulates the most points over the next two weeks will make it directly to the 2020 Canadian Championship Final.
Each club will play each other three times by Sept. 9. Whoever comes out on top will meet the winner of the 2020 Canadian Premier League season for the Voyageurs Cup and a shot at CONCACAF Champions League qualification.
It’s a great feeling knowing that Montreal is six points back without even having kicked a ball yet.