Toronto FC are winless yet unbeaten, but their tactical display and statistics show a team that hasn’t deserved three points in their two away games to start the 2017 MLS season.
But before I dive into the warning signs of Week Two, it is important to remember that it’s only been two games, in two different time zones, and this could continue when Toronto visit Vancouver on the opposite side of the continent.
It’s too early to draw any real conclusions. The statistical sample size is small, and it is even smaller for Sebastian Giovinco.
Having prefaced all that, what happened in Philadelphia is conflicting, but it ultimately makes sense.
Toronto kicked too many long balls and while the approach worked at times, it ultimately prevented Greg Vanney’s side from dominating the game in the Philadelphia half and creating high-quality scoring opportunities.
The game literally started with a long ball by Michael Bradley, and it set the tone.
What is the point of that? It’s a gift to the other team.
Toronto attempted 81 long balls in total, and completed 38, per WhoScored. Overall, the team completed 74 per cent of their 476 total passes — 79 per cent of which were short passes.
Ironically, Toronto’s goals were created by long balls. Bradley delivered a sharp pass to a wide open Justin Morrow, and Victor Vazquez’s long free-kick into the box resulted in a foul on Jozy Altidore that the striker then converted from the spot.
Out of Toronto’s 81 incessant long balls, two worked out in the end. Should a team as skilled as this, playing with a 3-5-2 formation to create numbers and keep the ball in attack, rely on the long ball against an inferior team?
This is what happens when Toronto settles down on offence and moves the ball around:
Altidore’s miss was the best play of the game, but it’s not being talked about because it didn’t go in. It even happened after Giovinco left with an injury, with Vazquez serving as a bridge between the rest of the midfield and Altidore.
Toronto finished with an xG (expected goals) figure of 1.56 (Philadelphia’s was 2) - a generous number inflated by their penalty. Without it, it would drop under one.
If Giovinco doesn’t make the trip to Vancouver, Bradley and Vazquez should team up to keep the ball in the attacking third to create high xG chances for Altidore. The long ball approach didn’t work.