TFC gets physical

GARETH WHEELER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:13 AM ET

Sunday’s Toronto FC win had Toronto written all over it — scrappy, hard-nosed, and a workmanlike effort.

Just how this city likes it.

For all that TFC lacked in style, the hard-working side made up for in effort.

From the opening whistle, it was clear nothing would come easy for Seattle. A seventh-minute crunching challenge by Martin Saric on Freddie Ljungberg said as much.

Saric was fortunate to just get a yellow card for his reckless two-footed tackle. But his challenge set the physical tone for the match, playing into TFC’s favour.

TFC’s physical play has been a trademark of the Reds early season, and should never be misconstrued as dirty. It’s about attitude and aggression, something that bodes well for the team. Discipline can be taught, the desire to compete cannot.

The superior work rate was contagious in the side, with talisman Dwayne De Rosario making his physical presence felt on numerous occasions. Preki attributes the hard-nosed demeanor to hard work in training, and it’s well taken.

For all the hard work, TFC is far from complete in its tactical approach. It’s the same old story this season with this team — a complete reluctance to use the width of the field.

The Sounders, even with an uninspiring squad selection, were clinical in their ball movement. Nothing flashy, it was all simple yet effective, working the ball from outside at the back into the middle of the park before playing it out to the flanks. Quality distribution and positive movement off the ball helped Seattle out-chance TFC by a considerable margin. A lack of cutting edge was Seattle’s worst enemy.

On the flip side, everything TFC does offensively is searching and too direct. Long-balls and/or play in far too tight areas in the middle of the park are largely ineffective over 90 minutes. Proper spacing and movement is a must going forward.

Capitalize on mistakes

If this doesn’t improve, De Rosario and O’Brian White, who looks better by the game, will be left capitalizing on mistakes, like they did so well Sunday, rather than being effective in the run of play.

More consistent play on the ball comes with role definition. The “X” factor in this regard continues to be Julian de Guzman. TFC’s Designated Player had a game; an absolute standout performance, despite playing outside right for the majority of the proceedings.

Preki insists it doesn’t matter where he plays, comparing de Guzman’s ability to play multiple positions across the park to Wayne Rooney. The problem with the comparison is it’s much easier for a gifted offensive player to fit in where need be across the line of attack than it is for a defensive-minded midfielder.

It simply cannot be best for the team playing de Guzman outside right or too far up the field. De Guzman excels with the ball at his feet, working in support. He needs to be active, and gets drawn inside far too much for an outside player to do so, killing any width the team has.

It took the 62nd minute introduction of Dan Gargan to bring de Guzman into the centre of the park, in a more defensive 4-5-1 formation.

Gargan may not exhibit the requisite flair of a natural outside right player. But his heady movement off the ball, positional discipline and work-rate make him an asset.

Gargan’s commitment to staying wide opened up the park and alleviated congestion in the middle. Preki’s challenge will be to maintain width without sacrificing his defensive organization. Not having natural wide players is a liability, but doesn’t make the task impossible.

Regardless the deficiency, TFC was full marks for the three points.

At the end of the season, they don’t ask how, they ask how many points. And a perfect six points from two homes games is as good as it gets.

gareth.wheeler@suntv.canoe.ca


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