TFC notebook: Coach Vanney not panicked over slow start in MLS


Montreal Impact defender Thomas Meilleur-Giguere, left, challenges Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore, during first half MLS action in Montreal, Saturday, March 17, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Toronto FC was back in training on Monday ahead of its home game against Real Salt Lake later this week.

Here are some news and notes from the day’s practice.

Vanney not in panic mode

TFC has yet to score a single goal in Major League Soccer, having suffered a pair of shutout losses to the Columbus Crew and Montreal Impact in their opening two matches of the regular season.

It’s not an ideal start, but, then again, TFC didn’t exactly storm out of the gate in 2017 when it registered just one victory and earned a modest six points from their first seven games. The team rebounded from that laboured start to win the Supporters’ Shield, set the record for most points in a MLS regular season, and won the MLS Cup.

So, is coach Greg Vanney worried, or even putting extra significance on Friday’s game against RSL? No, he’s not.

“For us, there’s still 32 games left in the season. To be fair, the first bunch of games is [about] trying to find your rhythm, find some of the details, get a look at some of the new guys we have in, the new relationships, try a few new things,” Vanney said after Monday’s practice.

That said, there is room for improvement. Specifically, Vanney thinks his side was a bit flat in the attacking side of things in the 1-0 loss against the Impact.

“We need to be more aggressive in our mindset than we were when we went to Montreal. That was a big difference in that game. We need to be recalibrating the things that make us successful and get back onto that path,” Vanney admitted.

Injury update

Defender Chris Mavinga (lower body), fullback Justin Morrow (calf) and midfielder Victor Vazquez (back) are on the road to recovery. All three missed the Reds’ last game on March 17 in Montreal.

Vazquez has been troubled by his back since being subbed out of Toronto’s season-opening loss to Columbus on March 3. Mavinga and Morrow picked up their injuries in the second leg of TFC’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Tigres on March 7.

While it appears Mavinga and Vazquez will be ready to go for Friday, Morrow has some more work to do in training this week to prove he’s fully fit to play against RSL.

“We’ll see where [Morrow] is over the next couple of days,” Vanney said

The scouting report on Club America

After the Real Salt Lake match, Toronto hosts Mexican side Club America on April 3 in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals. The return match is April 10 in Mexico City.

TFC booked its spot in the final four of the continental competition after besting Mexican club Tigres in the previous round.

Toronto played Club America in a pre-season match, and a member of Vanney’s staff has already put together an extensive scouting report them, so TFC have a good sense of what to expect from the Mexican side.

“They’re an aggressive team, probably more aggressive than Tigres. Their front five or six guys look to try to get out and get pressure on things, and try to create some transitions and shorten up the field,” Vanney said.

“If you break that initial pressure then there tends to be a lot of space between the guys who are pressing [in attack] and the guys who are trying to protect their goal.

“Sometimes the game is open and they recognize that with the quality of their players they don’t need a ton of chances to score goals. Sometimes they are willing to allow the game to open up in hopes that their attacking players will get the chances that they need to get on top of the game.”

TFC players on international duty

Goalkeeper Alex Bono and midfielder Marky Delgado are away on international duty with the U.S. national team, who plays Paraguay on Tuesday in Cary, North Carolina. They’ll both be back in Toronto in plenty of time for Friday’s game.

Five Canadian players, including starter Jonathan Osorio, are back in town after being called up by Canada’s national team last week. Canada earned a 1-0 win over New Zealand in Spain on Saturday, with TFC forward Tosaint Ricketts scoring the winning goal.

“It was good for Tos to get 70 minutes, good for his confidence to get a goal. I thought [Osorio] was the best player on the field. I think he looked very mature and was very much in control. For a guy who’s been in and out [of Canada’s team] in the last few years, he has established himself as one of the real top guys in that team,” Vanney stated.

Looking ahead to Real Salt Lake

Toronto’s next game is Friday against Real Salt Lake at BMO Field. The teams met once in 2017, battling to a 0-0 draw in Utah in the season opener for both clubs.

Real Salt Lake features two former TFC players in Joao Plata (49th-overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft) and Luis Silva (fourth overall in 2012).

RSL boasts a 1-1-1 record this season, and is coming off of a 1-0 home win over the New York Red Bulls.

“They pick their moments when they can press and try to put teams under pressure, but by and large they’ve been a consistent counter-attacking team. The try to open up some space for those guys who are young and mobile and active to get out and get moving,” Vanney offered.

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