IRVINE, Calif. – The 2018 preseason kicked off in winning fashion for Toronto FC as the Reds dispatched local collegiate side UC Irvine 4-0 on Saturday afternoon.
The first friendly of the season marked the first match of any kind since Toronto’s 2-0 win in the MLS Cup Final last December, giving head coach Greg Vanney and his coaching staff the chance to evaluate an extended squad ahead of the upcoming 2018 season.
“It was a great game for our guys,” Vanney told TorontoFC.ca. “I thought the game had good tempo which is what you want in games like this. Credit to UCI to play three 45-minute periods with just 17 players, they made it difficult with their energy. I was pleased with our overall performance and how we used the ball.”
The Reds used the exhibition match to field three different starting lineups consisting of first teamer members, USL players from Toronto FC II, trialists and 2018 MLS SuperDraft selections.
After a scoreless first 45, TFC would eventually find the breakthrough in the second stanza as trialist Tsubasa Endoh pounced on a rebound from close range. TFC II’s Shaan Hundal would double the advantage later in the period, heading home a cross from Toronto’s first pick of 2018 SuperDraft pick, Tim Kübel.
“We had three different groups today that showed well,” Vanney stated. “The first group got a little stretched, a little overeager trying to press, which is fine for me because you’re building up your capacity to cover ground and work physically, so we benefitted from that.
“The second group was very organized, did a great job of making us difficult to break down on the defensive side. They won the ball in some good areas to create two good goals for us, a real solid performance.”
The final 45 would see Toronto double their lead through a pair of brilliant individual efforts from a couple of Young Reds, with Ryan Telfer cutting inside to his left foot to find the bottom corner before Malik Johnson would seal the win with a booming strike from outside the area.
“The third group was a lot of our younger guys that have an incredible future here,” Vanney added. “They were an exciting group: dynamic, well-organized, powerful, just fun to watch. I was pleased across the board.”
While the win was a nice bonus, the success of the day wasn’t derived from the 4-0 final score line, Vanney admitted.
“In the grand scheme of things, what matters is the 45 minutes of game fitness and having everyone healthy coming off the field,” he said. “We’ve had a strenuous first few days of training, trying to get a lot of new ideas across to guys haven’t been in our environment for very long. But they’re understanding what our principles are, what our style of play looks like, what we are ultimately trying to do; the newer guys are in a good way.”