Toronto FC defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 in preseason action on Saturday afternoon at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
The Galaxy, who debuted their newest star, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez, took the lead in the 37th minute through Cristian Pavon, who slalomed through the middle of the park before beating Quentin Westberg from range.
Already up a man – Aleksandar Katai was sent off in the 32nd minute – TFC pulled level in first half stoppage-time through Ifunanyachi Achara, his third goal of the preseason, setting the table for Alejandro Pozuelo to net the winner from the penalty spot in the 77th minute after Jozy Altidore was brought down in the area.
The win was Toronto’s third of the preseason, following victories over the Colorado Rapids and UC Irvine before a midweek defeat against LAFC.
TFC return to the pitch on Wednesday when they meet Chicago Fire FC and again on Saturday, once more against the Rapids, before opening the MLS regular season on February 29 against the San Jose Earthquakes at Earthquakes Stadium.
Four matches into their preparations, Greg Vanney is pleased with the progress thus far.
“The first half our positional play, the way we move the ball, we were able to pull them apart, got them out pressing us, showed up in really good spots. The ball moved quickly, we were able to play through them. The first 35 minutes or so we probably should have finished off three chances at least,” outlined the coach. “And then when they took the red card we got a little bit casual.”
“We need to work on organization behind our attacks, making sure that we're tighter to guys. It can't be so easy for teams to get out of our pressure,” stressed Vanney. “When the ball transitions and we turn over, they can't find a guy out of our pressure and get going forward, which is how their goal comes. We’ve got to be more focused on that, got to be tighter, got to challenge their exit pass better than we did today.
“There are still some defensive things that we need to tighten up and we need to finish some of the chances that were there,” he added. “Far from perfect, but, in terms of some of the things that we want to do, today was definitely a step forward from the last game. And that's the process. The result is the result; at the end there's some really good things to take out of it and some things that we need to learn from.”
Having started with a lineup of Westberg, Auro Jr., Laurent Ciman, Omar Gonzalez, Justin Morrow, Liam Fraser, Pozuelo, Tsubasa Endoh, Achara, Jacob Shaffelburg, and Altidore, Vanney made fewer changes against the Galaxy than in previous matches, bringing on Eriq Zavaleta, Griffin Dorsey, Ayo Akinola, and Patrick Mullins throughout the second 45.
All part of the pushing match fitness as the season opener approaches.
“Get everybody on the same page, build fitness, build the things that you need to be durable over a long season,” listed Vanney. “These are all things we want to take advantage. Today we were looking to push as many guys close to 90 minutes as possible. We were able to do that for most, so that's a good step in the right direction.”
“We'll have another game Wednesday and then another one the following Saturday. We'll have probably another group on Wednesday push some extended minutes,” he continued. “Our goal is to be as physically prepared as we can and then also understand what we're trying to do so. That's what preseason is about. We'll try to take advantage of every one of the games and every minute that we have.”
Vanney and his staff have been methodical to every element of their preparations. The same approach will be taken in getting the latest addition, Pablo Piatti, who joined as a designated player earlier this month.
“His general fitness level is good,” observed Vanney. “So we just want to make sure that in terms of stability, balance, mobility, all those kinds of things, that he's as far along and as prepared as we can get him.”
“We want him to be safe, want to make sure he plays as much as he can this season and so we're trying to be diligent about that,” he added. “This week he’ll start to get some minutes and, if all goes well, he’ll be somewhere ready by the time we get to the first match of the season, but we'll play all of that by ear.”