MLS takeaways: Osorio’s emergence for TFC a positive trend

Jonathan-Osorio

Toronto FC's Jonathan Osorio, right, reacts after scoring on Friday. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Toronto FC 2 (Osorio 19’, 79’), Philadelphia Union 0

GAME RECAP IN A SENTENCE

Toronto FC rebounded from last week’s collapse in Columbus by earning its first road victory of the MLS campaign on Friday, a result that allowed the Reds to snap a two-game winless skid, move up the Eastern Conference standings, and win the season series against Philadelphia.

MAIN TALKING POINTS

1. Osorio: Toronto’s MVP
Last week, I wrote a column on the state of TFC, proclaiming Jonathan Osorio as the team’s MVP through the first third of the MLS regular season. The Canadian midfielder once again showed on Friday why he’s been the Reds most consistent and best player in 2018.

His first goal of the night was gorgeous. He beautifully controlled a sublime feed from Victor Vazquez, taking the Spaniard’s pass in full stride as he slipped between two Philadelphia defenders before breaking in on goal and firing past goalkeeper Andre Blake.

His second was from in close, and he displayed great control in a tight space as he fired past Blake with several Union players on top of him.

What stood out about the goals was Osorio’s composure. In past seasons, he would have snatched at both shots, and the chances would have went begging. This year, though, he’s playing with a high level of confidence, and you just feel as though that he can’t miss, and that he’s going to bury it whenever he breaks in on goal.

Osorio has become TFC’s most dangerous attacking threat in 2018. With Jozy Altidore out injured long-term and Sebastian Giovinco not scoring with his usual regularity in MLS this term, Osorio’s emergence as a legitimate goal-scorer has been one of the most positive developments for TFC this season.

2. TFC slowly getting healthy
Toronto has been plagued by major injury problems – it’s one of the main reasons why the MLS Cup champs are off to such a dreadful start. Coach Greg Vanney said earlier this week that several players were getting closer to full health, and that we’d see a few of them get some minutes against Philadelphia.

Lichtenstein midfielder Nico Hasler returned to action after sitting out the last six games, and after a rough start against the Union, he settled down and was his usual reliable self. Defender Nick Hagglund was used as a substitute in the last two games after coming back from a lengthy injury absence. He earned his third start of the season against the Union, and did a commendable job of quarterbacking the back line. Spanish midfielder Ager Aketxe also came on as second half substitute after missing several weeks due to a hip flexor, and looked lively in replacing Victor Vazquez

The return of Hagglund also allowed Vanney to shift captain Michael Bradley to his normal position in central midfield – he’s been used in the centre of defence over the last two months, with mixed results. But on Friday, Bradley put in a command performance, bossing the midfield, and serving as the key link between the back line and the attack. It was also his pass to Vazquez that led to Jonathan Osorio’s opening goal. Toronto needs Bradley in his regular positon to get the very best out of him, and it looks as though the captain’s days playing in defence are over.

3. A much-needed win for the Reds
You could hardly blame TFC if they were still reeling from last week’s game in Columbus, where they threw away a three-goal lead in the final 23 minutes and eventually settled for a draw. It was a major psychological blow to the MLS Cup champs, who were desperate to take the full compliment of points on offer.

To its credit, Toronto bounced back with a professional performance on Friday, putting what happened in Ohio behind them and digging in their heels as they attempt to climb up the Eastern Conference table.

With the win, the Reds ended a two-game winless run, and improved to 4-7-2 and 14 points of the campaign, moving past the Montreal Impact into ninth in the East. The Reds currently sit three spots and four points behind Orlando, who hold down the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference. There’s still a fair bit of work to do for Toronto if it’s going to close the gap, but this was an important win, as they can ill-afford to drop valuable points against any of their Eastern rivals.

KEY MOMENT

79’ GOAL! Toronto 2, Philadelphia 0: TFC was holding on to a 1-0 lead, but the game was far from over, as Philadelphia was sniffing around for an equalizer. Off a throw-in deep in the Union’s half, Sebastian Giovinco made a heads-up play, beautifully intercepting the throw-in and playing a pass for Jonathan Osorio inside the penalty area. The Canadian did well to control the ball while being surround by several Philadelphia players before slotting it home. Game over.

BURNING QUESTION


INTERESTING STAT

Toronto is now unbeaten in its last nine matches against Philadelphia (with seven wins), outscoring them 20-6 and recording four clean sheets.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Jonathan Osorio, Toronto: The Canadian bagged a brace for the Reds, finishing off both chances with aplomb.

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