TORONTO – It's not every day one witnesses a game like that.
Toronto FC were dominant on Wednesday night at BMO Field, the pitch tilted as they barraged the D.C. United goal throughout the 90 minutes, only to be forced to settle for a 0-0 draw.
“The only thing that was missing today was a goal,” said head coach Greg Vanney post-match. “The guys couldn’t have played any harder, especially as this is the fourth game in a short period of time.”
“They dominated the game from, basically, the first minute to the last minute. [D.C.'s] only real chance was 12 seconds into the game. We had 35 shots, the most ever was ,” continued Vanney. “This was as dominating of a performance as there has been, but we don’t have the goal to show for it, which is the only frustration in that room right now.”
“I asked them to come out tonight and go for the game from the beginning because I thought we were very slow at getting started in the last home game and the games before that. They had their foot on the gas from minute one,” added Vanney. “Sometimes you need a little touch of quality, a little touch of luck, some different things on some of these final balls. I couldn’t really be happier with the effort and the performance really.”
Defender Drew Moor made his return to the starting lineup, marshaling Toronto's third clean-sheet of the season.
“Disappointed that we didn’t get the three points,” said Moor. “We played really well. It’s funny coming away not scoring in that game, where we were knocking on the door the whole time. I feel good being back, but I wish we'd gotten all three.”
Michael Bradley detailed the things TFC did right on the night.
“Putting the game on our terms, being aggressive, playing in their half, trying to win the ball back quickly, re-pressing, doing it over and over and over again for 90 minutes. We were very, very good,” said Bradley. “Obviously frustrating not to be able to make a play and get a goal.”
“We said it amongst ourselves afterwards, Greg said it,” relayed Bradley. “If we continue to play like that, if we continue to play with that mentality, continue to play with that aggression, then we’re going to be in a good spot.”
Much though the shots and attacking play garnered the attention, at its core this was a stifling defensive performance.
“Everybody pressed extremely really well,” said Moor. “We were the aggressors. When we lost the ball, we tried to press high up the field and were extremely successful at that. That was what we wanted to do going in.”
“A lot of teams will play similar to how D.C. played against us here at our place,” continued Moor. “They know we possess the ball well, so when we can be the aggressors like that, really stay switched on the ball and not get hit on the counter attack then we give ourselves good opportunities to win.”
Ben Olsen opted to not start the three-headed attack of Wayne Rooney, Luciano Acosta, and Paul Arriola, instead bringing them off the bench in the second half. Even when they did enter the match, D.C.'s half-looks were few and far between.
“I don't know if I'm surprised,” said Vanney of his opposite's decision. “They're also in a series of games, playing three in six days. They were here to protect their goal, get something on the break. It's been a formula that has worked for a couple teams in the past, so why not.”
“We gave them no opportunity to get anything going into the attack,” added Vanney. “If you score, then the whole thing opens up and it becomes a totally different looking game. They were able to survive.”
This busy period comes to an end this weekend when TFC head to Real Salt Lake for a match on Saturday. They will do so with the confidence that comes from a performance such as that, even without the full points.
“We've got to put this one behind us and build off of it,” said Moor. “A lot of good things to take away from it. We've just got to be a bit more dynamic, a bit more ruthless, just put teams away when we have the opportunities.”
Scoreless though it was, this match was a template going forward. Asked what TFC should take from this match into the next ones, Bradley was blunt: “Everything.”
“We’ve not played a game in that way in a long time, maybe ever,” added the TFC Captain. “So, if we can continue on this path, continue to sharpen up on little details in terms of making chances, making better chances, then we can put it all together, we’re going to be in a really good spot.”