In seasons past, Toronto FC would have found a way to drop some vital points in games such as last night's BMO field encounter against an impressive expansion team in the form of Philadelphia Union. Instead TFC provided a gutsy 90-minute display to grind out an important 2-1 win which provides their coach, players, and fans a real boost of confidence.
The team mentality courtesy of the myriad of Preki changes is much better this year. As a result TFC are now competing more like winners and not whiners which has been all too apparent in the past. It is not the time to get too excited though as there were still some flaws in key areas. Nevertheless some momentum can be built and it gives Preki the opportunity to galvanize the players self belief in him.
The ability to hold onto the ball in the middle of the park and dictate play was missing for large parts of game even with the man advantage but it can be excused in part from the re-shuffled back four being gun shy after the New England Revolution collapse.
Some credit also has to given to Philadelphia who pressured the back four well - probably a result of scouting the New England game tapes and smelling blood - but the insistence on going more direct at the beginning was the order of the day for TFC and it paid dividends.
Dwayne De Rosario was again the catalyst for the offensive production and his two goals while both from set plays were justifiable reward for his industry and was key to TFC's win.
Overall not the prettiest of wins but the biggest factor that should resonate with the fans is that they now have a team that has the potential to outwork the opposition which will be essential. Too many times TFC have been outcompeted in the past. A little more quality on the ball and Toronto FC can be competitive this season.
- It was a smart move by Preki to pair Cann with Attakora as the centre back tandem as both provided strong no nonsense performances and were the defensive lynchpins for the team. Both dominated all aerial duals.
- The starting line-up and formation were good and showed the flexibility of some players such as De Rosario to cause trouble up front. With limited depth in the squad moving some players around can be one way to influence the game positively and Preki exploited this perfectly today.
- Gargan and Labrocca proved worthy of inclusion and again highlighted the flexibility of their playing styles.
- Half time changes were excellent and were key in putting Philadelphia on the back foot. Playing two up front in the form of Barrett and White made the difference and capitalized on the man advantage.
- Nervous tendencies in possession highlights the lack of a playmaking leader in the middle of the park who can dictate play. de Guzman was better but will need to continue his improvement for TFC to be a playoff contender this season.
- Defensively team worked very hard and were disciplined for a full 90 minutes which was a significant factor in gaining the three points.
- There was some naivety on the goal conceded with Usanov getting caught ball watching. As a result he was needlessly beaten in behind.
- Nevertheless the fact Frei had very little to do tonight is itself an indication of the sturdiness of the back four and the cohesiveness of the defending of the team as a whole.
- It is still early in the season but based on the three performances so far there are some positive signs of things to come. Better balance of pace, athleticism, and technique will begin to emerge as the team becomes more settled.
Frei, Usanov, Attakora, Cann, Hscanovics, Gargan, Saric, de Guzman, Sanyang, Lebrocca, De Rosario
Formation: 4-4-1-1 Preki wanted (4-3-3) but wide players could not get high enough
Stefan Frei (6)
Straight forward performance but was not really tested. Good command of the back four & dealt well with early Philadelphia pressure from corners. Excellent distribution at times initiated positive counter attacks.
Maxim Usanov (5)
Looked a useful addition to the TFC team until a reckless challenge warranted a yellow card and then a tactical blunder caused a goal. Preki was smart to sub him at half time and not take the risk. He is technically sound, athletic, and quick and likes to get forward. Big upside as season progresses.
Nana Attakora (6)
Better performance from Nana. Won everything in the air and grew as the game developed. Still a little unsure on the ball and looks embarrassed to go direct at times when it is warranted. Defensively was good tonight.
Adrian Cann (7)
A very good debut performance. Was assured, confident and most importantly, defensively reliable. Was also dominant in the air.
Raivis Hscanovics (4)
Another unsteady display from the Latvian defender. Lucky to not be sent off for a reckless challenge in the first half and then once again got beat in a 1v1 situation allowing a dangerous cross to be played in. On the ball became too predictable with diagonal long ball or pull backs. Will be targeted by opposition in the future who will view him as a weak link.
Dan Gargan (7)
Very good game whether he played wide in the midfield or as the right back. A couple of crunching tackles showed his intentions and mentality. Question mark on his positioning for the goal conceded but overall an improvement. Technically he was much better.
Martin Saric (5)
An overly aggressive and at times undisciplined performance. Could not always get tight to his opponent when he needed to. Lucky to not receive a yellow card early and wasted possession too often. Not his best outing.
Julian de Guzman (6)
Still gives the impression that he is not at full tilt. Either that or he is not at peak fitness yet, or, he is just not as good as we believe he should be. A decent performance but nothing spectacular. Has not yet dictated play in any of the three games so far this season. TFC desperately need a midfield playmaker but Julian has disappointingly failed to deliver so far
Amadou Sanyang (6)
Sanyang is getting better each game but he tried to do other peoples work for them tonight when he needed to close the ball down. Proved to be capable but still needs to be better on the ball.
Nick Labrocca (7)
A neat and tidy performance but not spectacular. Was comfortable on the ball and rarely made a bad decision with his distribution. Great ability to interchange positions without it affecting his game negatively. Excellent with set play deliveries.
Dwayne De Rosario (8)
Man of the match performance from the captain. He had a skip in his step from the first whistle and so it was just a matter of time before he broke the deadlock although it was a little fortuitous when it arrived. Preki was smart to play him up top at the beginning because he is always a threat with his pace.
O'Brien White (7)
A much better performance from White who looked like he was out to prove a point. Great change of pace and his ability to turn the defender eventually lead to the penalty call in TFC's favour. Still needs to be more threatening on goal but an exciting outing.
Chad Barrett (6)
Another good performance based on his core values of hard work and grit. Still lacks the cutting edge in the final third. Should have done better with his missed header in the second half. Looks more confident and will likely play a significant role this season.
Jacob Peterson (5)
Neat and tidy but never a threat in behind Philadelphia's back line. Technically decent but was caught out athletically when defending. Needs time to settle.