Even the best teams lose every once in a while.
A more pertinent quality for most - those for whom invincibility is unrealistic, anyway - is an ability to bounce back from bad results quickly.
The more defeats you string together in a row, the harder winning the next game becomes.
Toronto FC continue to avoid that problem.
The Reds’ 3-1 victory over Orlando City on Wednesday night was their fourth win this season on the back of a loss. They have now scored 13 goals and conceded just two in those matches and given the first three fell at home, this was their most impressive response yet.
Fall in Florida, and Toronto would have handed the Chicago Fire a chance to go five points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference. Instead, they increased the gap between themselves and Orlando to nine points and the two matches they have against New York City FC later this month may now decide whether the race for top spot in the East is run by two horses or three.
Giovinco ends road woes
The evidence in the 180 minutes Toronto have played since then is bearing him out and Giovinco’s two-goal show against Orlando might be second only to his Canadian Championship-winning display among the most notable performances of his season so far.
That is because of its location, as much as anything else. While the Italian has scored 10 goals in 10 games at BMO Field in 2017, he had yet to hit the target or do much of anything on his travels entering this road trip.
Part of that was circumstantial; the season opener at Real Salt Lake was cagey, he was injured before half-time in Philadelphia, the whole team was poor against New England and so on.
It was a run that still needed ending, though, and Giovinco now appears to be playing with more freedom - from both a physical and psychological standpoint - than he was back in March and April.
He showed glimpses of magic against FC Dallas despite the struggles of many of his teammates and carved Toronto’s lone goal out of not much.
This was a performance on another level entirely, though; his spin and pass for Jozy Altidore to open the scoring was sublime and topped only by the inch-perfect free-kick he whipped in later on. That was his second of the night, after Altidore had returned the favour by setting him up to make it 2-0.
If the Reds can continue to maintain a solid defensive structure and find ways to get Altidore, Giovinco and Victor Vazquez on the ball in the opposition half, they will end the season with one of MLS’ better road records.
Solid structure the foundation
The first part of that equation is just as important as the second; a strong rearguard is essential in enabling Toronto’s best attacking players to express themselves.
Against Dallas, the Reds never established that mostly as a result of the fact they burdened their wing-backs - both of whom were making their first MLS starts of the season - with far too much responsibility.
Oyvind Alseth and Ashtone Morgan were asked to be the main source of width in attack while also making sure they tracked back to form a back five and keep tabs on a dangerous group of Dallas attackers.
Vanney’s switch to a 4-4-2 formation in Orlando, then, made a lot of sense. It asked much less of Morgan and Alseth, who could tuck in and focus on their defensive duties as more traditional full-backs. Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou ensured a somewhat makeshift unit was well protected, as they had done in Seattle earlier in the season.
Ironically, and probably as a consequence of the fact they felt more comfortable in their roles, Alseth and Morgan were far more impactful going forward than they had been four days earlier. The rookie, in particular, chipped one excellent pass into a free Giovinco in the box and saw a ball slid across goal cleared just in time to prevent the Atomic Ant from tapping it in.
It should be said that Orlando were a bit of a mess on the night and might not have been in the game at all if not for Kaka’s excellence. That often becomes the case, though, when one team is organized enough to frustrate the other and throw them off their normal patterns of play.
Much like the win over the Sounders, this was an impressive showcase of that on Toronto’s part and the blueprint for future success away from BMO Field this season.