On a cold, cold night at BMO, Deandre Kerr started up top for the Reds. In the 25th minute, he broke through Columbus’ backline and neatly tucked the ball into the net past Eloy Room.
Note: Apologies for the quality of the pictures. Apparently poor pitch conditions create a nightmare for digital video and encoding. While the video is in HD, it looks like it was broadcasted in 480p. Ah, the wonders of technology!
Here’s the goal:
Into the Starting XI, onto the scoresheet #TORvCLB | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/jYj7WJV0gl— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) March 12, 2023
Bob Bradley’s game plan of playing a possession-based game was evident in the opening minutes of the match. Toronto seemed to take a cautious approach to the match – meaning it took ten minutes to actually get a feel for the pace of play.
In the few minutes leading up to the goal, it was clear that the team saw the potential scoring opportunities on the right side of the pitch. That meant playing the ball through Richie Laryea, Jonathon Osorio, and Federico Bernardeschi – arguably TFC’s most useful players through 3 matches.
Interestingly enough, Toronto completed a total of 13 consecutive passes before Kerr’s goal, which started with CB Matt Hedges.
The goal sequence starts with Michael Bradley controlling the ball at midfield, with acres of space on the right side of the pitch:
Richie Laryea is hugging the touch line without being marked at all and receives a pass from Matt Hedges:
Osorio moves into space and away from defenders to take the ball. He then turns to have a look and sees Kerr making a run:
Kerr takes the through ball from Osorio, and still has a bit of work to do. With the Columbus defender Milos Degenek on his shoulder, Kerr has to figure out how to get around Degenek:
His decision? A cheeky little nutmeg (Brad Bobley’s Megnuts!!) through Degenek’s legs:
Kerr takes the ball onto his left foot and strikes it past Columbus keeper Eloy Room:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The game plan from the start was to play to Toronto FC’s strengths on the right side of the pitch. That included was attempting to spread the Columbus defense across the pitch and wait for an opening. It seemed that Columbus manager Wilfried Nancy and his players were taking a cautious approach defensively, as it seemed like they wanted to clog the middle of the pitch. As Michael Bradley takes the ball, there’s no Columbus player on the right side of the pitch.
Bradley has the option of passing to Matt Hedges or Federico Bernardeschi, who is calling for the ball:
When Laryea receives the pass, he has about 10 yards of space offered by midfielder Yaw Yeboah. Laryea sees Osorio starting to make his movement into space away from the defender Philip Quinton and freezes the midfielder Aidan Morris:
As Osorio makes his turn and passes, Bernardeschi is also making a run, drawing Columbus’ Quinton away from the middle of the pitch. Berna’s run allows for an isolation of Degenek with the speedy Kerr:
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN NEXT?
It was clear that the goal was created by a possession-based build-up. How does Toronto FC continue with the offensive pressure?
1) Continue to use the 4-2-3-1 formation –Playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation allows the double pivot to be employed with Bradley and Kaye. Rather than rely heavily on just one central midfielder, it allows Toronto to switch play easier. There were numerous instances where the play was easily moved from the left to the right side of the pitch, as players like Kaye and Petretta had pass options in the midfield. Even when Insigne returns from injury, TFC should continue with this formation to maximize game management and not putting too much pressure on the midfield.
2) Preach patience in possession – Possession-based football is synonymous with employing the double pivot. Bob Bradley needs to instil a sense of patience in this team, as there have been too many instances early on this season of trying to force a play. While it is important to have speedy players like Richie Laryea on the pitch, TFC should not rely on outrunning its opponents. It seems this team has issues with closing out games, particularly with endurance and fitness late into the game. By having sustained control of the ball throughout 90 minutes, it may result in a win or three. Against Columbus, Toronto only had 44% possession. Against Atlanta, TFC had a much worse 33%. It is not a great expect your defense and goalkeeper to continually bail out your team. More possession creates more goal scoring opportunities, and fewer opposition chances.
While the match did not see the outcome we had hoped, it is reassuring to see a better attacking mindset in the home opener. As this team continues to develop chemistry, there should be more goals that involved build-up play.