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Columbus Crew 3-3 Toronto FC: What have we learned?

TFC look vulnerable as they drop two precious points against the Crew

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC’s early difficulties in this year’s MLS campaign were almost cancelled out when Greg Vanney’s clan opened a three-goal lead against the Columbus Crew SC, who are currently occupying second place in the Eastern Conference.

However, a surprising lack of confidence paired with difficulty defending dead ball situations and marking opponents inside the 18 paved the way for another disastrous night as TFC drew 3-3 in Ohio.

TFC’s chances of making it into the playoffs are fading week by week, but the current champions still have time to stage a comeback and earn their place back in the top six.

Last night’s game was not entirely one to forget, as there were several moments which made TFC look like the team that completed a domestic sweep in 2017.

Jason Hernandez underrated?

The latest acquisition to the team for the 2018 campaign was Jason Hernandez, who re-signed with TFC following his previous spell at BMO Field.

It was obvious that Hernandez would be a backup for the starting defenders but against the Crew, he showed that he could be a defender on whom TFC can rely.

This was his sixth match for TFC this season and it was his best performance. His positioning was excellent especially when cutting out dangerous passes in the half-spaces, registering three clearances and three interceptions inside the 18.

Unfortunately, defensive errors led to the Crew’s three goals but Hernandez’s display was a solid one and it can help him to be a reliable option in either a three-man or four-man backline.

Traditional winger

In his seventh appearance for TFC, Ryan Telfer produced another decent display, which actually made me sad.

He is 24 years old and the boy clearly has talent, but while in Europe 24-year-old academy products have already developed a solid technical repertoire, in North America a player like him can be making his first steps in pro soccer. I would imagine we’d see a different Telfer now if he had been discovered and given an opportunity at a younger age.

Moving on to his game, Telfer is demonstrating he is a traditional winger, as he is the type of player who receives the ball and then opts either for a cross in the middle or finding his own route toward goal. He is physically strong and he is smart on the ball, perhaps the best news for Greg Vanney so far.

Glimpses of quality

First of all, TFC miss Jozy Altidore. He is a proper target man, doing a lot of hard work inside the 18, but he is also able to receive the ball outside the area and help push his team forward. Most of all, his connection with Sebastian Giovinco is something to admire as they manage to find each other with perfectly weighted passes.

Tosaint Ricketts is a completely different striker, who loves to slide behind the defensive lines, waiting for searching passes, and capitalize (or miss, like against FC Dallas). Giovinco has to connect the passes himself outside the penalty area when Ricketts plays and that sometimes hinders TFC from creating a lot of chances.

On another note, however, leading up to the second goal, the Canadian team showed that when their best players click into gear, they are unplayable. Victor Vazquez’s square pass to an unmarked Giovinco in between two defenders was exquisite (Gregory van der Wiel made an equally perfect pass not long before as well).

TFC need to see more of this if they want to pull off one of the biggest comebacks in MLS ever.

Midfield crisis

The never-ending list of injuries has severely weakened the midfield as skipper Michael Bradley is currently playing as a centre-back, which removes the press-resistant midfielder that made TFC breathe from the heart of the play. Marky Delgado is not in his best shape after the CONCACAF Champions League run and to add insult to injury, Jonathan Osorio suffered a knock and had to leave the Crew game early.

The youth that are playing in the midfield do not have the thick skin that the regular players and therefore, TFC is losing in part due to their lack of competitiveness and experience in the midfield. For example, Bradley’s frequent connections with the wingbacks and Delgado’s ability of cutting the opponents’ passes are both parts of TFC’s game that are typically key.