It wasn’t pretty, then again no preseason game really is, but Toronto FC got it done.
The Reds defeated Danish side HB Koge 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at the IMG Academy.
Jonathan Osorio’s patient strike in the 53rd minute proved to be the difference maker.
“They had their backs against the wall,” said Osorio after the game. “In those kind of situations defenders are very sporadic with their decision making so I thought if I’m calm and collected and opening would come around.”
It wasn’t all good at times, as the Reds are clearly still learning how to play with each other. The positives came at the back, where Joe Bendik, Damien Perquis, Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow registered excellent performances.
Saturday’s win sets up an important (it’s still the preseason, remember) Wednesday night fixture against the New York Red Bulls. The winner of that game will most likely take top spot in Group A. Whether the starters will play in that game remains to be seen.
Here are three takeaways from TFC’s first win at the IMG Suncoast Pro tournament:
Caldwell comes through
Toronto FC got off to an inauspicious start against the Danish second division team. Two goal line clearances, one from Morrow and the other from Perquis, kept the game goalless, but a marker from HB Koge felt inevitable.
That’s when Caldwell provided some much needed stability at the back. Alongside Perquis, who was just as good, the veteran Scot showed how much he brings to this squad when healthy.
“To play 90 minutes it’s always of bit of a milestone in the preseason,” said Caldwell. “It was a very difficult game in difficult conditions.”
Though they played together in training, this was the first time Caldwell and Perquis played beside each other in a game situation. They’re still learning about each other, but the early signs are good.
For Caldwell, seeing his name in the starting lineup still evokes strong emotions. "It never changes. Actually I feel it stronger now, because it's maybe coming to an end, though I feel I've got a few a years left in me."
He’s the last Canadian standing in the starting lineup, and that means a lot to the 22-year-old. “It’s always an honour to represent my country,” said Osorio. “We [wear] that flag proud on our chest and on our jersey.”
Osorio has spent most of the preseason on the left wing, but lined up on the right side against HB Koge. Danny Lovitz took his place on the other side.
“My whole career I’ve been able to kind of play anywhere in the midfield,” he said. “It’s good now that I’m getting chances in each position because when the season starts you never know what might happen.”
What could happen is Osorio has a banner year, playing alongside the likes of Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco upfront. His goal was the product of a well worked passing play between Benoit Cheyrou, who was solid for the second straight game, and Altidore. There’s more where that came from.
The goalkeeper sees all, and Joe Bendik is more observant than most.
TFC’s shot stopper came up huge early, when the Reds sleptwalk their way around the pitch for the opening 25 minutes. He felt the team settled in at the start of the second half, when Greg Vanney’s tactics were on full display.
Bendik was full of praise for the centre back pairing in front of him.
“The three of us feed off of each other because each one of us is so vocal,” the goalkeeper said.
“All day, all game long they were getting into each other and helping each other out. Then I would feed in, and they would give something to me. You can see a real relationship coming together between Michael [Bradley], the back four and the strikers.”
TFC – Jonathan Osorio 53’ (Jozy Altidore)
TFC – Justin Morrow (caution) 25’
HBK – Brandão (caution) 40’
HBK – Bruninho (caution) 54’
TFC – Warren Creavalle (caution) 66’
Toronto FC – Joe Bendik; Warren Creavalle (Nick Hagglund 70’), Damien Perquis (Eriq Zavaleta 78’), Steven Caldwell, Justin Morrow; Michael Bradley, Benoît Cheyrou (Collen Warner 70’), Sebastian Giovinco (Luke Moore 76’), Jonathan Osorio, Daniel Lovitz (Robbie Findley 63’); Jozy Altidore (Jay Chapman 82’)
HB Koge – Frederik Due; Delphin Tshiembe, Søren Henriksen, Casper Grønn, Kristian Pedersen; Bruninho, Sylvester Seeger-Hansen (Daniel Arrocha 82’), Jonas Thomsen (Nikolaj Hansen 73’) , Kristoffer Munksgaard, Philip Zinckernagel (Justin Shaibu 78’); Brandão