TFC unable to unlock Kansas City’s defence in scoreless home opener

Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney comments after a disappointing home opener for the squad.

• MLS, BMO Field – Kansas City 0, Toronto 0
• TFC earns draw in home opener for 1st time in club history
• Reds goalkeeper Clint Irwin left in 40th min with a knee injury

TORONTO – On a grey and drizzly evening, it seemed fitting that Toronto FC put in a rather drab performance.

The Reds showed flashes of attacking invention at times during Friday night’s home opener before 27,909 spectators at BMO Field, but they couldn’t find a way to unlock Sporting Kansas City’s compact defence, and had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

Only in the last 30 minutes did TFC come alive and put the visitors under steady pressure after looking incredibly wasteful in the final third of the pitch for most of the opening hour.

On the positive side, Toronto was never in serious danger of being breached and did a solid job of containing KC’s attack. Another positive was the clean sheet, the Reds’ third of the season, and the fact they are unbeaten (with one win) through four games.

“If you look at the history of the league and the teams who win, it’s the teams who defend well,” stated Toronto coach Greg Vanney. “If we weren’t creating [scoring] chances and barely hanging on I’d be a little more concerned. But I’m not concerned.”

Captain Michael Bradley added: “We’re not easy to beat.”

The first decade of Toronto FC in the words of the players, coaches, executives and fans who built the franchise.

Still, Vanney couldn’t hide his disappointment with the final result.

“It was a frustrating night for sure,” Vanney conceded. “By and large their best chances come off of us making silly mistakes.”

Bradley hinted that he’d like to see TFC be a bit more adventurous when going forward in attack.

“While we can’t take stupid risks, in the right moments we still have to have a little more courage. Across the board we have to be a little braver to make certain types of plays, to play certain types of passes, knowing that when those types of plays come together they are what help us break a team like [Kansas City] down,” Bradley offered.

Vanney made a number of lineup changes, replacing forward Jozy Altidore with Sebastian Giovinco (who returned from a leg injury), fullback Justin Morrow (heel injury) with Toronto-native Raheem Edwards (making his first MLS start), and midfielder Armando Cooper with Victor Vazquez. Clint Irwin was back in net after backup Alex Bono started the previous match. Kansas City was missing influential midfielder Benny Feilhaber (hamstring problem).

Veteran defender Drew Moor called Edwards, only 21, one of TFC’s best players on the night.

“He was a big boost for us,” Moor enthused.

Prior to kickoff, fans in the south end of the stadium unfurled a massive tifo display that read: “With heartbreak comes a new beginning, a new opportunity,” a reference to TFC’s loss to Seattle in last season’s MLS Cup final at BMO Field.

Kansas City’s systematic high-press—led by forwards Dom Dwyer, Soony Saad and Gerso Fernandes—caused plenty of problems for Toronto, who struggled to retain possession and play through the pressure. The Reds also missed the holdup play of Altidore up front for most of the contest, and Morrow’s probing runs down the left flank.

“They’re a good pressing team. That’s how they do it. We knew that it was coming. But I don’t think that was the difference in the game. The difference was our moments where we’re using the ball and creating opportunities, but we didn’t finish them,” Vanney explained.

Moments of genuine creativity by the home side were fleeting, with some promising build-up sequences undone by a poor final ball played into the box or a misfired shot on net. Jonathan Osorio was the worst offender, spurning three quality scoring chances alone in the first half.

Irwin appeared to injure his hamstring after getting his cleat caught in the grass pitch. He walked off on the field under his own power, but was replaced by Bono in the 40th minute. Bono came up big early in the second half, making a kick save on Dwyer from in close following a giveaway by Bradley near the top of the box.

There was no update on Irwin after the game from Vanney, who said the goalkeeper will be evaluated over the weekend.

Giovinco nearly broke the deadlock in the 59th minute, unleashing a powerful free kick from 25 yards out that pinged off the crossbar. Altidore subbed in for Tosaint Ricketts moments later, and that change sparked TFC’s attack, with the Reds beginning to ask serious questions of KC’s back line and forcing their opponents into some last ditch defending.

NOTES: Kansas City leads the all-time MLS series against Toronto with 14 wins and six draws in 24 meetings… The Reds’ record in home openers now stands at 6-4-1… TFC returns to action next Saturday at home against expansion club Atlanta United FC…

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