Toronto FC got away with it - again.
Much as was the case on Wednesday night in Columbus, this was not the kind of performance that Greg Vanney would have drawn up or hoped for, but once again his side found a way.
Tosaint Ricketts scored the winning goal for the second consecutive game, bundling home a close-range header after superb work from Jozy Altidore, to earn the Reds a messy 3-2 victory over Minnesota United at BMO Field.
Sebastian Giovinco gave Toronto the lead from the penalty spot but the hosts sleepwalked through the best part of 50 minutes after that and were pegged back by two Kevin Molino goals. Luckily, Christian Ramirez had put the ball in his own net in between those two strikes after a dangerous Michael Bradley free-kick.
Vanney almost always, however, has a weapon or two to bring off the bench and two of his substitutes in Altidore and Ricketts combined to ensure TFC picked up the three points that was expected of them back on home turf.
1. Substitutes to the rescue: You almost have to beat Toronto twice to really beat them. Getting through the initial wave and forcing Vanney to delve into his substitutes and make in-game tweaks is difficult enough, but then those changes come and you have a whole new team to figure out and stop.
Toronto 1 weren’t especially good here, but then Toronto 2 came out - with Victor Vazquez joining Altidore on the field - and they found their rhythm again. There was an inevitability about the Reds at least having another big chance to win this match even after they had started the second half by conceding twice in 17 minutes.
2. They can’t keep winning like this, but they keep winning: That’s six on the bounce. I think we got a taste of the difference, here, between rotation at home and on the road; in Seattle and Columbus, Toronto could be a bit more reactive and game plan for the opponent, giving players specific jobs. Back at BMO Field, the impetus was back on them to take the game to Minnesota and to do that consistently and effectively they need their best players on the pitch in their best positions.
With more changes enforced on Saturday, they didn’t have that and struggled to get into a consistent rhythm, particularly with Giovinco feeling muscle tightness. Toronto couldn’t have asked for much more from this nightmarish run of games, but the results should not mask that making so many changes so regularly is not really desirable.
3. Edwards provides the X-factor: With Vazquez and Altidore out of the starting lineup and Giovinco subdued before his withdrawal, Raheem Edwards was comfortably Toronto’s brightest player in the first half. Minnesota were fairly conservative with their full-backs, keeping a tight back four together to inhibit the TFC attack, but their problem there was that it left rookie Abu Danladi chasing back to deal with Edwards on the wing.
Danladi cleaned Edwards out in one such situation to give Giovinco the chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot and the academy product continued to torment whoever he found himself up against. The Reds simply did not have that kind of one-on-one threat from out wide last season, and their opponents are now finding out that they cannot shut things down in the middle without giving Edwards space in which to hurt them from the flank.