Toronto FC’s three designated players get all the attention and praise, but a big part of the success of the 3-5-2 formation Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney implemented late last season is Justin Morrow’s seamless adaptation to it.
Wing-backs (usually the full-backs in the previous formation, like Morrow) make the biggest adjustment when switching to a 3-5-2. The centre-backs get more help with an extra defender in the middle, the defensive and attacking midfielders stay in their central roles, and forwards reside around the box.
But now Morrow is a hybrid of multiple roles and positions: Wing players are expected to help out on defence, be in the middle of the field in case the midfielders need an outside option and maintain width on offence, putting balls into the 18-yard box.
Those are things that can also be asked of full-backs, but as a wing-back Morrow has to be an even better offensive player. In the 4-3-3, the wide forwards help space the field and even defend in wide areas, but Morrow has the entire left flank to himself in the new formation.
The workload can be exhausting, but Morrow has played at a high level in all of Toronto’s 270 minutes so far this season.
Morrow’s best game of the young season came in week two against Philadelphia, when the Reds needed it most. Sebastian Giovinco went down with an injury in the first half and Morrow became an attacking force: the 29-year-old scored, completed three of five take-ons and left a trail of passes from box to box.
Morrow’s goal was impressive for any player, let alone a defender.
For starters, he is the furthest player up the pitch, by far. He then brings the ball down like a like a Brazilian ‘10’, fakes the defender and finishes past Andre Blake - one of the best goalkeepers in MLS.
Morrow again showed his attacking versatility and mentality 15 minutes later by connecting with Jozy Altidore on a quick one-two in midfield and immediately darting forward.
Morrow then MEGGED the defender, and instead of lobbing the ball into the box, opted for a simple pass to Victor Vazquez on the edge of the area that ultimately didn’t work.
The 3-5-2 formation is very difficult for wing-backs because it requires an incredible work rate on and off the ball but through three matches, especially in Philadelphia, Morrow has shown he’s up for the challenge. A team with Giovinco and Altidore is going to be good in attack, but after switching formations TFC has a new and unexpected attacking force.