TORONTO – On the heels of a hectic May, a month that saw them play seven matches, it is a good time for a break.
Toronto FC had a few days off after Friday night's 2-2 draw against Sporting KC, returning to the training pitch on Wednesday morning as TFC II played North Texas SC in USL League One action.
“It's a busy day,” said Greg Vanney with the music bumping in the back-ground as hundreds of children took in the midday match. “We got our guys back in for the first time after four days off, which is nice. Having the School Day game creates a lot of energy.”
The first team trained a few pitches over as the Young Reds battled to a hard-fought 3-3 draw against the league-leaders, lingering afterwards to watch their clubmates in action.
With the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup set to begin on Friday, Vanney laid out the schedule for TFC over the coming days: “Four days of training, give them another day off and then we'll start our preparation for Dallas.”
“We come back to four [matches] in 16 or 17 [days], something like that, so we're back into quite a busy period,” continued Vanney, underestimating quite how busy that period will be. Toronto travels to face FC Dallas on Saturday, June 22, then return home for a Wednesday night match against Atlanta United FC. Saturday, June 29 sees them hit the road for a visit to D.C. United and continue on to California for a Thursday night match against the LA Galaxy.
A four-match gauntlet in less than two weeks, potentially without the services of the five players on international duty.
Admitted Vanney of that stretch: “Guys have got to be ready to turn around quickly.”
“We've just get back to work, keep building on things we've been doing in recent works. A lot of things we're looking for are present. The last game we had some really good attacks, got to some really good positions,” highlighted Vanney. “80% of goals are scored in the circle in front of goal, from the 18 to the goal-line and about 15 yards wide.”
“We were in that spot with really good chances multiple times in this game. The opposition had two PKs and one shot on goal besides that,” he contrasted. “If you play those stats out, you'd like to think you're going to get some wins over the long stretch. We've got to keep working, keep building, get sharper in front of goal.”
Back when the season began, one element that was stressed was that Toronto would be a team that created their goals through purposeful play. Of course, wonder-strikes are fun and have their place, but they are no replacement for, or at least are less-than-reliable than, a well-constructed one.
That aim was evident against Sporting KC.
The first saw Alejandro Pozuelo lay a ball down the left for Justin Morrow, who threaded his cross into the goalmouth for the timely arrival of Nick DeLeon to tap in. Not entirely dissimilar from the late equalizer against Vancouver Whitecaps FC the previous week, though it required a fortunate bounce as well.
Vanney detailed how the second goal from Jordan Hamilton was as well: “A ball was played in to Ryan [Telfer], who laid off to Jay [Chapman] and took off running. The ball went to Pozuelo, who then plays the ball in behind to the player who ran after he passed. Once Ryan was in, we created the advantage that we want and he laid it across goal.”
“That was a series of players, playing with one another, thinking in collaboration, and playing ahead of the game by a couple passes,” summed up Vanney. “Those are the type of things we need to keep building on. We saw more of those in this game – this game had more space to it and we showed some ability to play fast and really break them down.”
“It's different when you play teams that sit five in the back-line and have four in front of them, the games looks different,” added Vanney, referencing an approach TFC has seen from a lot of opponents this season. “Those were good team goals – the ones that seasons are made of. The world-class goals are additions to those.”
With the traditional MLS summer grind fast approaching, now is a good time for a rest, as there is a lot of football left to be played.
“We've battled hard in this stretch,” said Vanney of the last month-plus. “Take a minute, catch our breath, regroup a little bit. A reset, start working on things we can add. We're slowly making progress.”
“Ultimate progress will be what we see when everybody is back together and we have the [full] complement of players, but we're seeing guys like Liam [Fraser] and his capacity to help our team out on a consistent basis,” highlighted Vanney. “Others are getting opportunities to show they can add value to our group.”
The focus ahead for Vanney and his side is, “turning these draws into wins, and losses into draws or wins.”