• MLS – Toronto FC 1 (Delgado 56’), FC Dallas 3 (Lamah 5’, 21’, Urruti 78’)
GAME RECAP IN A SENTENCE
TFC remains winless at Toyota Park, suffering their third loss of the season, and dropped out of first place in the overall MLS standings with an uneven performance against FC Dallas.
THE MAIN STORY
A disappointing 3-1 loss in Dallas, combined with Chicago’s 4-0 destruction job of Vancouver, meant the team from Illinois overtook Toronto for first place in the overall MLS standings.
With no Steven Beitashour (injured), no Justin Morrow and Raheem Edwards (both away on international duty) and no Victor Vazquez (dealing with personal issues), coach Greg Vanney had to plug some pretty big holes on Saturday night. Ashtone Morgan made his first start of the year, as did rookie Oyvind Alseth, who was also making his MLS debut.
Dallas took full advantage of the new wingbacks, using its speed and long passes from out of the back and down the flanks to hit out on quick attacks. Morgan and centre back Chris Mavinga were routinely beaten for pace down the left, while Eriq Zavaleta was far too slow in tracking back on the other side, as Dallas took a 2-0 lead into the break. All three Dallas goals came from simple passes that ripped Toronto’s back line, often guilty of playing too high of a line, to ribbons as Maxi Urruti and Roland Lamah ran rampant up front for the home side.
How Toronto missed the midfield creativity of Vazquez. The Spanish schemer has been a godsend since his arrival this season, using his technique and vision to create opportunities for teammates, and effectively linking up with forwardz Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. The midfield wasn’t the same without him on this night, with Armando Cooper and Marky Delgado unable to make up for the Spaniard’s notable absence.
It was also a pretty quiet evening from Altidore. How many times have we said that of TFC’s best player through the first half of this season? Answer: Not many. The big, burly forward took a pounding from Dallas’ defenders, like he does most games, but he couldn’t fight through the abuse, and was anonymous for most of the match.
78’ GOAL! Toronto 1-3 Dallas: The Reds worked their way back into the game when Sebastian Giovinco’s pass took two fortuitous deflections – one off defender Atiba Harris, the second off the post – before landing at the feet of Marky Delgado to score on an easy tap in. It seemed like the hosts were in danger as Toronto pressed for the equalizer. But then Michael Barrios played a lovely through ball for Urruti to run on to, and the Argentine made no mistake in taking a touch before slamming it home with a fabulous finish. That killed off the Reds’ hope for a comeback.
Would things have been any different had Toronto played 4-3-3?
On Friday, I chatted with Vanney and asked him if the injury to Beitashour, combined with the absences of Morrow and Edwards and Nick Hagglund (still out injured) meant he might consider a tactical switch away from his preferred 3-5-2 formation.
He said the remaining options available were more hybrid, right-sided players, and not natural right fullbacks such as Beitashour, which makes the current setup more conducive to their skill sets. “It doesn’t necessarily behoove us to change things up tactically too much just because of the mixture of guys we have available,” Vanney said.
In Dallas, the Reds were cruelly exposed down the flanks, with the home side taking full advantage of the spaces left open by Morgan and Alseth whenever they ventured forward. Playing four in the back might have helped Toronto spread the defence out a little bit more. Ultimately, TFC’s defensive errors on the night owed far more to lapses in concentration and judgement, rather than the team’s formation.
This was not one of Toronto’s better performances of the season, especially in the first half when it was completely outplayed, looked suspect in defence and somewhat lackadaisical in attack.
It’s not easy to win at Toyota Park, though. The heat and humidity, combined with the quality of the opposition (Dallas is a perennial MLS Cup contender) make it very difficult for visiting teams to earn positive results – even when the home side misses key starters in Kellyn Acosta and Matt Hedges (both away with the U.S. national team) as it did on Saturday night.
What’s more, Toronto is in the middle of a gruelling part of the schedule – Saturday marked the fifth game of a stretch that sees it play six times in 19 days. It was unbeaten in its first four games of this run, including besting the Montreal Impact over two legs in the final of the Canadian Championship.
Much has been made about TFC’s depth this season, but no side is perfect. Even the best teams have off nights, especially during a particularly challenging part of the schedule. This was one of those nights for Toronto FC.
Toronto has only beaten FC Dallas twice in 16 all-time meetings, and is winless in nine trips to Toyota Park (seven losses and two draws).
MAN OF THE MATCH
Maxi Urruti, Dallas: Roland Lamah was fantastic on the night for Dallas, scoring with two sublime finishes to give the home side a 2-0 lead going into the halftime break. Urruti, though, was the man who absolutely tortured Toronto on this night with his runs (both on and off the ball), and his linking up with teammates in the final third of the pitch. It was his decisive pass that set up Lamah’s opener, and the Argentine, who began his career in Toronto, put the game away with his 10th goal of the season.