TORONTO – It’s good to be back.
Toronto FC made the most of their return to BMO Field on Tuesday night, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0.
Pablo Piatti opened the scoring in style unleashing a curling left-footed blast from distance in the 27th minute – his first for the club. The Argentine then added a second in the 55th minute when Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Osorio combined in the left-side of the area before finding Piatti at the back-post for a low finish. And Nick DeLeon rounded out the goals come the 83rd when Alejandro Pozuelo’s tidy back-heel drag played him clear in on goal.
Having joined TFC in February, Piatti was forced to wait until July to make his debut. In four matches since he has two goals and an assist.
“He was excellent,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “The way we used him tonight was a little bit different than at MLS is Back and we played the group slightly different. Part of that was to get Jozy in the mix, part of that was to get Pablo into a different role and Poz through the middle of the field a little bit more.”
“His movement was really good, his timing was good,” he continued. “The speed at which the ball moved all night was the key to everything. It was very easy for guys to set up in the right spots, to build timing on their runs, because the ball was being delivered when it needed to be delivered. When you do that then everybody becomes more effective.”
“That was part of it for Pablo. He makes those runs a lot and we don't always find him,” Vanney added. “Tonight, because the speed at which the ball was moving, the timing of all of it was a lot better and because of it he's more effective. A lot of things clicked tonight. When that happens players will stand out and tonight we had several, Piatti was one of them.”
In a stop-start season, making the most of the time to strengthen the relationships on and off the pitch was always going to be of vital importance, especially for a newcomer.
Piatti’s interplay with Pozuelo and Auro Jr was evident immediately in Florida, add Jonathan Osorio, who picked up assists on the first two goals of the night, to that growing list.
“I have a good relationship with them, especially because of the language, but I also have a great relationship with the rest of the team,” said Piatti. “This is what makes this team great because we all have a good chemistry, a good relationship, and the whole idea is playing all together. It's not just about who scores, it’s pulling everyone together on the same direction.”
All for One, one may say.
The return of Osorio to the starting eleven was a factor in a match where Toronto dominated possession and largely dictated the tempo.
“Jonathan's been fantastic all season,” said Vanney. “He’s been so good this year. A lot of it has been in training. It was unfortunate that we lost him in Orlando for most of the tournament, but he's been so sharp and tonight same thing.”
“He slides in seamlessly,” he continued. “His relationship with Michael [Bradley] and Marky [Delgado] and Poz is so good. These guys have played so many games and big games together; they're so comfortable together and read off of each other. It was nice to have him back because that's a big part of what makes things tick for us.”
While the goals garner headlines, it was also a stifling defensive performance from the Reds. Whenever the Whitecaps looked to break, a defender was there to snuff out that spark.
“We were good,” said Vanney. “It helps when you have the ball as much as we did, that's the starting point.”
“By and large, we stayed disciplined to our shape behind our possessions and behind our attacks, which enabled us to be effective in stopping most of the counterattacks that came out. We had a couple fouls in good moments that were situations that looked like they were going to be dangerous,” he highlighted. “Our attentiveness to details within this game was better, far better than it was in Orlando.”
As the first of six games against Canadian opposition over the coming weeks, it was important to start on the right foot.
“There's no two ways about it,” agreed Bradley. “We have a good group, we have confidence in ourselves. The first three games in Orlando we felt like there were a lot of good stretches. Obviously the Round of 16 match against NYCFC wasn't what anybody would expect from ourselves, but we've tried to now look forward in a good way, tried to take advantage of every day.”
“And everybody's just excited to now get back on the field, to have a stretch of normal routine of training at our training ground, playing home games here at BMO, some away games where you go and play and come back,” he added. “It's an exciting stretch.”
Toronto and Vancouver will meet again at BMO Field on Friday.
With that in mind, Vanney used all five substitutions allowed, bringing on Patrick Mullins, Justin Morrow, Nick DeLeon, Liam Fraser, and Tsubasa Endoh.
“It's a luxury for us right now and one I really want to use,” explained the coach. “Depending on how games are going we have different ways to change the game up. The guys who came on, all of them, played very well.”
“When you can change five guys and the speed at which the ball is moving and the continuity on the field doesn't change, that's special. That's guys who are locked in and come on the field ready to make a difference,” he continued. “These games come quick. Part of that is getting some guys ready who might start in the next game, so get their game minds working and to be prepared as we move into the next one.”
Depth will be tested.
Vanney challenged his side to put in a full 90-minute performance. While the cooler temperatures compared to Florida in July were a factor, it was just one of many.
“Our team is so mobile and there's a fair amount of interchanging, combine that with the field, which is in beautiful condition, and the ball is just moving so fast,” outlined Vanney. “Guys weren't taking extra touches when they didn't need to. It was so difficult for Vancouver to get close to us because as soon as they started to close, the ball was moving into a new space. It was hard for them to ever catch up to it.”
“All of that together makes for a good performance,” he continued. “We saw a little bit of that in Orlando – the first half of D.C. was pretty similar, some moments in other games, but tonight we put together 90 minutes which is what we've been asking of the guys and what we needed to do.”
“Now we need to build off of it and come back on Friday and have another good performance,” stressed Vanney. “Keep the same intensity, keep the ball moving just as fast, not try to overcomplicate things, be in the right spots for each other, and have good reactions in transition because [Vancouver] are a team that can hurt you if you're not attentive to things. We’ve got to have another performance to back this one up tonight.”