Giovinco, Altidore illustrating why they’re MLS’ best forward pair

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco (10) scores on a free kick (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

• MLS – Toronto FC 3 (Altidore 18’, Giovinco 46’, 65’), Orlando City 1 (Rivas 63’)

GAME RECAP IN A SENTENCE

Buoyed by the dynamic duo of Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC responded from a disappointing weekend loss in Dallas with a complete team performance against Orlando City on Wednesday night.

THE MAIN STORY

Giovinco and Altidore will garner the headlines for TFC after this win in Orlando, and honestly, that’s not entirely out of line. Their reputation as the best forward pairing in Major League Soccer gained more credibility, as they set each other up for goals, and the Italian scored on a majestic free kick after Altidore earned the foul. They’ve played many games together where they’ve been in great sync with each other. Wednesday night was, perhaps, the best example of their unbelievable chemistry on the pitch.

But this was hardly a result won entirely on the backs of Giovinco and Altidore. It was a complete and balanced effort by the Reds, with coach Greg Vanney getting solid contributions from a number of players.

In Dallas, youngsters Ashtone Morgan and Oyvind Alseth looked out of sorts, and the Texas club took full advantage of the wingbacks. On this night, though, Vanney changed from his 3-5-2 formation to a more traditional 4-4-2 setup, with Morgan and Alseth deployed as fullbacks. They were far more composed and assured in these roles, which gave them the confidence they needed to shift back into wingback positons when Vanney reverted to a 3-5-2 in the second half.

Jason Hernandez was immense in the centre of defence, starting in place of Drew Moor. It was only his fourth MLS appearance of the year, but the veteran defender ably quarterbacked the back line, combining well with Eriq Zavaleta to thwart Orlando at every turn in the opening half.

Marky Delgado continued to show why he’s earned his spot in the staring 11. The youngster from California demonstrated great vision in TFC’s buildup play, quickly playing the ball on for the next man as the Reds swept forward in attack with pace and prupose.

Like he’s done so many times before, captain Michael Bradley ably protected the back line and served as the vital link between the defence and the attackers. Honestly, he doesn’t get enough credit for the unglamorous, yet vital work he does for TFC. And with Victor Vazquez back – he didn’t play in Dallas – Toronto had an extra touch of ingenuity in midfield, the Spaniard reforming his effective partnership with Altidore and Giovinco.

KEY MOMENT

65’ GOAL! Toronto 3-1 Orlando: The home side clawed its way back into the game when Carlos Rivas latched onto a pass from Kaka and beat goalkeeper Alex Bono from in close. Any chance of an Orlando comeback was quickly snuffed out, though. Just moments after Rivas’ goal, Altidore was fouled and Giovinco scored a screamer from 30 yards away on the ensuing free kick, firing home into the upper corner past a helpless Joe Bendick. Sublime stuff from the Italian.

TALKING POINT

How much better is Toronto FC with Victor Vazquez in the starting 11?
A lot. Vazquez missed the game on the weekend due to personal reasons, and the Reds duly suffered – they sorely lacked his presence in midfield, and had trouble creating chances against a Dallas side that overwhelmed them on the counter-attack.

You could just see the difference in TFC against Orlando with Vazquez back in the starting lineup. The Spanish schemer effectively pulled the strings from his position in midfield, acting as the creative reference point and giving Toronto’s attack that little but extra cutting edge and quality. The former Barcelona youth product displays great intelligence on the ball, and his ability to deliver the ball in early to Altidore and Giovinco gave them extra time to torment Orlando’s back line.

 
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QUICK TAKE

Jason Hernandez continues to be an unsung hero for TFC this season. The veteran defender has had to ride the bench with Drew Moor, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund and Chris Mavinga all ahead of him in the depth chart, and has been limited to just four MLS appearances. But each time he’s come in and started a game, like he did on Wednesday in place of Moor, he’s been solid and has hardly looked out of place.

Against Orlando, he made a number of key tackles and was positionally sound, helping to anchor a young back line in the first half before Moor came on after the break. With close to 300 MLS appearances, he’d be a starter on most other teams in this league, but Toronto has such depth that he can hardly get a game. To his great credit, he’s accepted his limited role and been a key contributor for the Reds when called upon.

STANDOUT STAT

MAN OF THE MATCH

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC: This was one of the finest performances this season from the Italian, who bagged two goals and set up another. He was at the heart of a buzzing Toronto FC attack, with his furious feet and quick turns after receiving the ball giving Orlando City plenty of problems on the night. Honourable mention to Altidore, who had a goal and an assist for TFC.

TFC Pitchside will provide Toronto FC supporters with an inside look into their favourite obsession Monday nights at 11 pm ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Call it an all-access pass for all things MLS brought to you by co-hosts Dan Riccio, Thomas Michalakos and producer Amil Delic. You'll hear from the biggest names around the club, and the MLS. You'll also get reviews and previews of every TFC game with reports from Pitchside at training and on game days at BMO Field. The Six is about to get done!

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