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Toronto FC 2-2 Atlanta United: Reds’ fourth draw in five the most entertaining yet

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Sebastian Giovinco got back among the goals but it was not enough for the Reds to pick up their first win at home.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

A return to goalscoring form for Sebastian Giovinco was not enough to earn Toronto FC their second win of the season, with Atlanta United holding the Reds to a 2-2 draw at BMO Field on Saturday night.

The Reds have now tied four of their five matches this season and once again, they will have come off the pitch feeling as if they left two points on the table. After Hector Villalba had given Atlanta the lead by latching on to a superb pass from Miguel Almiron, Giovinco drew Toronto level following a wonderful move between the Italian, Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore.

Altidore was a force once again in general play but did not have his shooting boots on, missing the target with three of his five attempts on goal. Justin Morrow put Toronto in front after more good work from Vazquez to release Steven Beitashour to cross, but another ball behind the Reds’ defence allowed Villalba to get his second.

Lots of attacking, less defending

Both of these teams have some gifted players and played a lot of excellent attacking football, but they also both looked a little too aggressive at times in pursuit of goals. Despite the clean sheet, I thought Atlanta looked as if they could be moved around a bit at the back in their draw against Seattle last weekend and TFC had them spinning on a regular basis here.

Toronto, for their part, were beaten by two simple passes behind the defence after leaving themselves open in midfield (more on that later). Chris Mavinga is not going to have convinced many people he’s ready to replace Nick Hagglund, but this was about as tough a game as Greg Vanney could have put him in for given Villalba and Almiron would roam in his vicinity.

It made for a much more enjoyable game for the fans than the two coaches.

Cooper plays his best game for TFC

Armando Cooper replaced Jonathan Osorio in the starting lineup and had himself an outstanding game. The midfielder was active on and off the ball, leading the Reds’ efforts to force turnovers in the Atlanta half and creating a game-high three chances.

Whereas Cooper is often criticized for holding on to the ball for too long, here he picked his moments to dribble more intelligently and used his ability to go past a man for good. His 92% and 93% overall and opposition-half pass-completion rates were the best among starters, and only Michael Bradley gained possession for Toronto more.

Interestingly, Cooper’s average position was deeper than Bradley’s. Which brings us on to...

The 3-5-2 becomes a 3-4-3

When Vanney said he wanted to see Giovinco, Vazquez and Altidore on the field together, we didn’t necessarily realize he planned to use them in such close proximity to each other at all times. Vazquez played more like a forward than a midfielder in this match, effectively turning Toronto’s formation into a 3-4-3 with Cooper and Bradley playing alongside each other in central midfield.

That’s exciting to watch, but whether it holds up defensively is another question; it did give the likes of Almiron and Villalba more space to operate in between the lines. Atlanta are one of the better offensive teams TFC will face this season, though, and having had 20 shots to six Toronto should have won this game on the balance of chances.

Who’s next?

Toronto are back on the road next weekend, taking on the Columbus Crew at MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday night at 8pm ET.