There may not have been any fans at Thursday’s match between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida, but Greg Vanney did his best to ensure there was noise throughout the 90 minutes.
While the absence of spectators is one of the many odd facets of the return to play, the ability to hear the communication, both from the bench and on the field itself, has been an interesting substitute, allowing some insight into a level of the game that is often masked.
Vanney was asked about his vocal performance post-match.
“For one, you hear me more just because there's nobody else to listen to,” began a raspy coach. “But the other part was the guys were tired, just trying to gut through the game, trying to get into the right spots. We weren't that great in moving together in our block defensively, we were getting separated and guys were so tired at times that I didn't think communication was happening all that much because they were just conserving and trying to get through the game.”
“And so I felt like it was my responsibility to try to provide some voice out there for them,” he explained. “Normally, I probably wouldn't be so loud, I let them handle it, but I really felt like the guys were just trying to grind through it and I was trying to give some direction, spur them on, and help them out.”
“It was definitely not a plan, it's looking at the moment and trying to fill in where I can help,” he added. “I want to feel like from the sideline that I can help the guys out and today was with my voice.”
Whether Vanney’s pipes will be able to recover in time for Tuesday’s group stage finale against the New England Revolution is currently unknown.
With the Revolution and D.C. United drawing 1-1 in their second game, Toronto’s 4-3 win over Montreal means that they are now tied atop Group C, sitting on four points alongside New England, all but assured of a spot in the knockout rounds.
But as is so often the case, it was not just the points that were at stake.
“The win in general was very important for us,” said Vanney. “[There was] a lot of frustration in how things finished the last game. One of the things we talked about was, once we got the lead, to not feel like we had to sit back and protect [it], to still find ways to be aggressive and to attack and to try to get the next goal.”
Winning by implementing the plan, while perhaps not as dramatic as some scrambled victories, is a little sweeter in that it indicates the path is correct and the trajectory is good.
“Even at 3-2 [against Montreal], our discussion was ‘keep attacking, keep looking for the fourth goal, be smart about how we do it, but don't back off and let's try to keep being aggressors when we can,’” he relayed. “The fourth goal was huge because of the amount of fatigue and a short turnaround this early in the season. It turned out that we needed that fourth goal to get the win. It was a vital goal and important to help us to secure the three points.”
At the outset of the tournament, TFC Captain Michael Bradley forecast that it was the teams that, coming off of months of relative inactivity, built into the competition that would find success.
He is pleased with how Toronto is shaping up 180 minutes in.
“Yeah, very much so,” replied Bradley. “We talked about understanding that, given all the different circumstances right now, nothing was going to be easy or perfect at the beginning.”
“It's been four months since the team last played a game, we've only been in team training for a few weeks, no real friendly matches, we were forced to just jump right into it,” he continued. “We talked a lot about this idea that at the beginning we were going to need to use our mentality, we're going to need to rely on the ideas that have been ingrained into the team for the last few years.”
“It's not been perfect; there's still a lot that needs to improve and needs to get better, but four points from the first two games is still a good start,” he added. “We want to finish the group off with another win against New England – these points count towards the regular season, so it's important to finish in a really strong way. And then we want to qualify for the knockout round, take it one game at a time from there, and be a team that is giving ourselves a real chance to lift a trophy at the end.”
With progression nearly guaranteed Toronto has the luxury of possibly getting some minutes to players yet to feature, but with a longer recovery period heading into Tuesday, Vanney isn’t rushing into any lineup decisions.
“We'll see how guys come out of this one, how they recover,” delayed Vanney. “We'll see what's in store for us, but hopefully we can get some guys in, whether that's starting or through the five substitutions, that haven't seen some action.”
“We're trying to build out our depth and get guys as much experience as we continue to move forward. It’s a long season, but we're also looking to put ourselves in the best position coming out of this [tournament],” he continued. “These points count for the league, but the best position for the [Round of 16], quarterfinals, and all that [as well].”
“We want to continue to get guys opportunities at the right times and in the right situations,” Vanney added. “But we'll see after we take inventory and as we prepare for New England.”