TORONTO – With spring finally turning to summer, the expectation over the coming weeks and months is plain for Toronto.
For Greg Vanney that means one thing: “Step forward as a group.”
“We're trying to find stability, getting guys back, into roles they're familiar with, getting our relationships going again,” continued Vanney. “Get those things back, at the same time work hard, whatever it takes, to get the result. That's how we will go about it.”
“As things settle down, the consistency will come out within our group,” added Vanney. “For now, we're grinding a little bit. Everybody has got to step up, do the things they have to do on the night to get a result.”
Last Friday's 2-1 win over Orlando City SC was a move in that direction, not letting heads drop after Cristian Higuita equalized and finding the late game-winner through Ryan Telfer to seal up the three points.
With FC Dallas' visit to BMO Field this Friday leading into a spell with seven of the ensuing nine on the road, that attitude will be crucial as MLS heads into the FIFA World Cup break and play resumes for TFC on June 24 with a visit to NYCFC, kicking off the annual summer grind ahead of the playoff races heating up.
The returns of Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta against Orlando provided some positional normalcy for Toronto. Nick Hagglund looks to be turning the corner towards being available as well, but there will be one change to the starting XI, as Clint Irwin is set to step between the sticks with Alex Bono away with the US Men's National Team ahead of their match against Bolivia on Monday.
“Clint is a first class guy, a capable starter in this league,” said Vanney. “With Alex away, getting an opportunity to potentially get his first cap, it's a good opportunity to get Clint in the goal.”
It will be his fourth appearance of the MLS season, having played in the 3-1 win over Real Salt Lake, as well as losses away to the Colorado Rapids and the Houston Dynamo.
“He's been sharp in training, in games,” added Vanney. “Unfortunate that he took a lot of goals [against Houston]. It wasn't because of him. He was excellent or maybe we take more. He's been very good in his minutes, very mature as a leader as well. I look forward to him getting the chance. He's deserving and worthy of it. He'll be great.”
The opposition on the night, FC Dallas will be looking to rebound from a disappointing, late Vancouver Whitecaps FC comeback in their 2-2 draw on Saturday night, where a penalty kick deep in stoppage-time cost them home points.
“They've proven to be a difficult team to beat this year,” said Vanney of Oscar Pareja's side. “They've been stingy in giving up goals, the longest [unbeaten side]. There [were] several ties in there, but that shows a team that is resilient.”
Not quite as impressive as their nine-match unbeaten run to start 2017, Dallas began 2018 with six unbeaten matches, winning and drawing an equal amount, before finally losing 3-1 at the end of April away to NYCFC, their only defeat of the campaign through 10 matches.
Typically playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, the four-man attacking unit can pose problems. Roland Lamah, generally from the left, and Max Urruti up top lead the side with five goals apiece, while Mauro Diaz, who pulls the strings from the central attacking midfield position, already has six assists to his credit.
Just some of the names TFC will have to keep a close eye on come Friday.
“They're dangerous on the counter, a lot of speed between their wingers and their striker and they've got some good passers that can unlock those good runners,” noted Vanney. “A lot of mobility, a lot of pace. That's where they tend to find success.”
Having conceded just 11 goals through those 10 matches, Vanney added: “We're going to have to beat them, they're not going to beat themselves. We're going to have to find a way to unlock them and beat them.”
And on TFC's home ground, they expect Dallas to do the same as those who have come to town of late.
“They're probably going to follow a blueprint similar to a lot of teams that come here,” foresaw Irwin. “Sit a little deeper and counter us.”
“It could be something different, but that's what teams have done, to varying degrees of success,” cautioned Irwin. “We have to be smart with the ball, make good decisions, and it's really important to get the first goal. That's what we're focused on. When we're at our best is when we score first.”
To continue taking those steps forward the expectation is clear, according to Irwin: “Three points.”
“When you're at home, three points is the expectation,” reiterated Irwin. “When on the road, we expect three points, but sometimes you have to take what is given. That's the focus now: do what we can to win. Whether it's ugly, whether we have to dig deep; whatever it's going to take.”