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Tactical analysis: Chivas Guadalajara 1-2 Toronto FC (4-2 pen.)

Toronto FC claim victory on Mexican soil but it was not enough to avoid a heartache finale for the Reds.

Soccer: Concacaf Champions League-Toronto FC at Guadalajara Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

It has been hard for me rewatching the highlights of the game over and over again in order to do this piece. Losing on penalties is always difficult to digest because you feel that you did not deserve that type of fate.

Yet, TFC fans should be proud of what the club has achieved as, unlike previous editions, an MLS side gave the impression that it could really go deep into this tournament and clinch the coveted trophy.

Toronto FC have earned respect from the whole continent and the tweet below is a testament of the club’s growth.

Shorthanded TFC

Greg Vanney managed to recover a half-fit Victor Vazquez for the game but he still had the likes of Chris Mavinga, Nick Hagglund and Justin Morrow unavailable.

To add insult to injury, central defender Drew Moor was ruled out from the game minutes before while the only centre-back available for Vanney, Eriq Zavaleta, was not 100% even though he was on the bench.

Hence, TFC featured a brand new central pair with Gregory van der Wiel, who is now used to playing at the back since arriving to the 6ix, alongside skipper Michael Bradley.

One could argue that Bradley learned the CB trade from Daniele De Rossi during his Roma spell, given that the Italian was moved back on the field both with club and country.

In fact, Bradley’s presence was still vivid with his ability to send long passes to the flanks and his defensive skills which helped him register two successful tackles in the middle of the field, two defensive blocks just outside the eighteen, three interceptions and an impressive 12 interceptions.

Ashtone Morgan and Auro Jr completed the defensive line as they were deployed as left-back and right-back respectively.

The returning Vazquez initially started on the left flank but gradually started to impose himself at the core of the midfield in various situations of play, in order to fill the vacuum left by Bradley as the main distributor.

Although TFC lacked his vision in the past games compensated with the high rhythm of play provided by Jonathan Osorio, the Spaniard was not very effective in his 70 minutes of play, as he never provided a successful open play pass that led to a goal and had only one key pass.

The enterprising midfielder Osorio joined Marky Delgado in the middle while Nicolas Hasler was on the right flank.

The usual partnership of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco led the attacking line.

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Toronto started very strong in this game, trying to inch themselves up on the field and applying pressure from both flanks with a variety of movements by Giovinco and Altidore that favoured the midfield orientation.

However, they never really threatened Chivas, barring Delgado’s long-range shot. It was the hosts that drew first blood after sending a warning moments before with a close-range header.

Osorio was easily dispossessed in midfield by Rodolfo Pizarro and the latter rushed towards TFC’s backline in a 4 vs 3 situation.

The mistakes in this goal were pretty visible with Osorio losing possession cheaply, vdW not quick enough to close down Pizarro, and Auro getting completely outworked by Orbelin Pineda who had the simplest of tasks in sending the ball into the net.

We are used to seeing MLS sides collapse in such scenarios. But TFC were a different team, more determined and this goal did hurt their pride whatsoever.

Even more because this goal did not change the concept of TFC’s game, given that they still had to score two goals to even it up at 0-0.

TFC rolled their sleeves up and once again were exerting pressure in Chivas’ half and were also threatening from set-pieces. In fact, their equalizer came from a corner-kick with Altidore finding another goal in a final, proving his value to TFC’s cause.

A great piece of quality shown by Nico Hasler led to Altidore’s goal. In this goal, Hasler highlighted his ability in protecting the ball, dribbling in tiny of spaces and sending inviting balls into the box.

This was the first goal that Chivas conceded at home in this year’s CONCACAF Champions League.

If Toronto need to thank someone for entering into half-time with a 2-1 lead, it should be Morgan as on minute 32 he made a last-ditch tackle on a Chivas player to deny him a one on one situation against Bono.

TFC went ahead through Giovinco, who let his frustration go with a wonderful low drive that deceived the Chivas goalkeeper.

It was a typical TFC goal starting from a quick transition with Delgado receiving the ball midway into the pitch before sending a through ball to Giovinco who, after unmarking himself, squared his opponent before sending the ball into the net.

Following this goal, Giovinco has now become the second all-time top scorer in this competition for the club with four goals, which drew him level with Jonathan Osorio as this edition’s top scorer.

Vanney’s subs, Marky’s miss

In the second half, Toronto stood their ground in the early stages of the game and Vanney started to feel that his side could go and kill the tie with another goal.

In fact, in what could be seen as a controversial decision, Vanney replaced Hasler with Jordan Hamilton as the team switched to a more visible 4-3-1-2 with Hamilton joining Altidore up front and Giovinco aiding them in a number 10 role.

From one point of view, one can argue that this substitution was made too early since Hasler was performing in an efficient manner and with an added striker, Toronto would lose another midfielder.

On the other hand, Hamilton provides presence and height inside the 18, besides adding another target man for the away side in an attempt to exert pressure over the hosts.

However, as the half wore on, Chivas were gradually increasing in their aggressiveness and they came close to leveling terms on a couple of occasions as TFC looked a bit exhausted in the closing stages — understandable, given the altitude, the pressure not to concede a late goal, and the awareness of catching opponents on the break.

The last feature, in fact, was underlined in stoppage time when Toronto caught their opponents on the break but failed to capitalize as Delgado’s effort sailed over the bar to the dismay of TFC fans.

Overall, it was a solid display by the Reds who stood their ground, especially in the final stages when Chivas threw everything at them. This augurs well for the rest of the MLS campaign.