“Even when I lose, I’m the winner”
Now the dust has settled on TFC’s ‘victory’ over NYRB, I thought I’d had a brief look back and look forward to the Eastern Conference Final.
TFC progressed to the Eastern Conference final after losing 1 nil at home to NYRB making it 2-2 on aggregate but got through on away goals. What more could I say about the 2nd leg that hasn’t already been said? Probably not much, it wasn’t pretty and continues this odd run of form that TFC are on, where they haven’t played particularly well since the LA game in September, but still ground out a few decent results.
This game was scrappy from the start, and no surprise that the only talking points that come out of the game were the incidents involving the referee Chris Penso as the actual play was terrible. Even the NYRB goal was a speculative shot with a lucky deflection.
NYRB understandably started the quickest searching for the goals they needed and kept the ball the better of the two teams. TFC went into the game with a plan to sit back and allow NYRB to commit men forward then break quickly and try to catch them out.
Despite the Red Bulls’ possession, TFC looked more threatening. Altidore had had a shot from the right, but dragged it wide of the far post. Moments later a cross from Vasquez was tipped wide but Robles and looked like Giovinco was about to tap in an easy chance before the outstretched leg of Kemar Lawrence poked it away from the Italian.
Toronto’s best chance of the game came just before the end of the first half when Vasquez played Giovinco in from the right. His shot with the outside of his boot was saved by Robles and went narrowly wide, but still a chance you would expect Seba to put away.
TFC defended in numbers, with both wingbacks slotting into a back 5 when NYRB attacked and Bradley and Delgado sat in front of them clogging up the centre of the field forcing NYRB to play it wide. No crosses really troubled Toronto with the sheer numbers back easily clearing most.
All that stuff happened with Altidore and Kljestan getting sent off, Giovinco’s yellow card, keeping him out of the first leg of the next tie. But everyone has heard everyone’s opinion on this already so won’t bother.
The second half, NYRB put on more pressure without creating too much. Bono made a fantastic save, coming off his line quickly to thwart BWP to keep TFC in a winning position. Osorio and Vasquez had goals…wrongly(?) disallowed. But TFC scraped through and will move on but without their two starting forwards.
The international break may have come at an opportune time where the squad can get together and can really work on the game plan going into the away leg in Columbus, where TFC will have to really step up their game and get out of the funk they are currently in. The Crew also went through 4-3 on aggregate after losing the second leg but in much more comfortable and less controversial fashion.
So how should TFC go at this match? Well a lot of people I have spoken to say to park the bus, dig in and keep it tight, but I think people are focusing too much on what TFC are missing and not on what they still have at their disposal, and they still have a lot to offer going forward even without the two DP’s.
I think that Vanney should start in his normal 3-5-2 formation bringing in Osorio or Cheyrou to midfield, likely Osorio, with Ricketts as the lone striker and Vasquez playing just behind in the #10 role. They could go into this game with the same game plan as most of the season, and keep possession well, get the ball out wide and work the way towards the goal, combined with quick counter attacks, diagonals to the wings etc.
Now this obviously isn’t the same Crew that TFC beat 5-0 without Seba and Jozy earlier in the season. This Crew team are in form, are fighting against everything that is happening off the pitch and will want to win this this home leg. The players and crowd will be up for this and I think will go for it. This could leave space for Ricketts to use his pace getting into the channels, Vasquez can hold the ball up and use it well bringing the wide men into the game with one or two of the central midfielders supporting the attacks.
The wingback roles could be very important with Meram and Santos likely to start wide from Columbus. Morrow will start without a doubt, Beitashour or Hasler is more up for debate. Beitashour hasn’t been great of late but arguably better defensively and if TFC don’t want to commit forward too much this might be the better option. Higuain and Kamara bring their own threats and so Bradley and the centre backs will need to be on top of their game,
I don’t think TFC should be going into this first leg looking to settle for a draw. They would, especially a score draw, but they have the ability to come away from Mapfre with more than that and set themselves up well for the second leg where hopefully they will perform better than the last second leg.