Some burning questions came to my mind after Toronto FC’s 1-1 draw against the Colorado Rapids at home on Saturday night…
Was this a missed opportunity by TFC?
Oh my, yes it was.
Toronto came into this contest sporting one of the best home records in Major League Soccer, having won its previous seven games at BMO Field, where it is undefeated this season. Colorado, meanwhile, is one of the worst road clubs in the league – before Saturday the Rapids lost all seven of their away matches this MLS campaign, and lost eight in a row dating back to 2016.
Jay Chapman’s first MLS goal in the sixth minute gave Toronto the lead and seemed to signal it was going to be one of those nights for Colorado. But for all of their dominating play, the Reds couldn’t kill off the Rapids, failing to capitalize on a number of quality scoring chances, and allowed Colorado to stay in the game. The visitors just needed one opportunity to level the score, and they took it in the 76th minute.
Simply put, this was a game TFC should have won. The Rapids are not in the same class as the Reds, even with all of their absences on this night – Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Justin Morrow were away on national team duty, while Steven Beitashour remains sidelined after having surgery on his pancreas.
In settling for a draw, Toronto blew a chance to open up a four-point lead atop the overall standings over the Chicago Fire, who lost to New York City FC earlier in the day. It’s shaping up to be an incredibly tight race in the Eastern Conference where every point matters. TFC will surely look back on Saturday’s result as two points lost, rather than a point gained.
Will Jay Chapman get more game time?
It took Chapman 37 regular-season games to finally score his first MLS goal, but it was a beauty.
Six minutes in, Sebastian Giovinco chased down a Victor Vazquez pass before it went over the end-line and played it across the box. Tsubasa Endoh’s shot was saved by Rapids goalkeeper Zac MacMath, but Chapman scored on the rebound with a powerful header. It was a great play by Chapman, who wasn’t put off by Endoh cutting in front of him to take his shot – instead, the young Canadian stayed focused, reset, and scored on a perfectly-placed header.
His glaring miss in the second half notwithstanding – he blasted high over the crossbar while having a clear look on goal – this was a man-of-match performance from Chapman, who earned a rare start after coming on as a substitute for Giovinco in Wednesday’s 2-2 draw away to NYFC. Chapman distinguished himself in that contest as well, serving as the first line of defence up front and effectively linking the play. Against the Rapids, he was far more involved in the attack, and did an excellent job of supporting Giovinco before being subbed out in the second half with a minor injury.
So, that’s impressive outings in back-to-back games within the span of four days for Chapman. Great. Now what? Has he done enough to earn more starts or even regular playing time? We all know this is an incredibly deep TFC side, especially in central midfield where Bradley and Vazquez occupy two of the three starting positions, leaving the rest of the guys to battle it out for one spot. Could the answer be that TFC should continue to deploy Chapman in an advanced position behind the main striker like they’ve done the last two games? Giovinco and Altidore have a lock on the starting forward roles, but maybe there’s an opportunity for Chapman to get more playing time up top as opposed to in TFC’s very crowded midfield.
What’s wrong with Armando Cooper?
A loan pickup last summer, the Panamanian was one of the Reds’ key contributors during the second half of the campaign and their run to the MLS Cup final. The fact that he displaced a player the calibre of Will Johnson as a starter made Cooper’s rapid ascent all the more amazing, and TFC management was so impressed that they decided to buy him outright from his parent club, Arabe Unido. This season has been an entirely different story. Not only has he lost his starting role, but Cooper hasn’t come close to duplicating the outstanding form from a season ago. Often times, he’s been a liability.
On Saturday, just minutes after coming into the game, he made a costly turnover in midfield that led to a Colorado counter-attack that ended with forward Dominique Badji scoring the equalizer in the 76th minute. It’d be very harsh to put all of the blame on Cooper for the Reds only getting a draw against the Rapids, but there’s no denying that his mistake was the turning point in the match, and Cooper’s lacklustre form does raise one obvious question: What, exactly, is wrong with the Panamanian?
Coach Greg Vanney’s focus this season has been on quick ball movement. He wants his players to be efficient with their touches, and not to linger too long while in possession, and work the ball to danger men Giovinco, Altidore and Vazquez. Cooper is not that type of player – he likes to take opposing defenders on, and wiggle out of trouble before passing off. Perhaps that is why Marky Delgado has emerged as the preferred choice in midfield. Unlike Cooper, the fleet-footed youngster plays one to two touches before moving the ball along to Bradley or Vazquez.