Commentary

Jurgen can't complain, and Toronto gets a grip

By Paul Kennedy
(@pkedit)

Long-suffering Toronto FC fans saw it happen last season, so they aren't getting too excited yet.

An opening day win. In the Pacific Northwest. Two goals by their new star brought over from England.

Everything looked so promising for Toronto last season: a 3-1-0 start, 6-4-1 at the World Cup break. Then the collapse. Inevitably. And an eighth straight year without a playoff berth.

The ninth year just might be different. The 3-1 win over the Whitecaps bore little resemblance to the 2-1 win at Seattle in the 2014. Last year, Toronto jumped out to a 2-0 lead after 24 minutes on a pair of goals by Jermain Defoe, then held on for dear life. On Saturday, it struggled with the pace of Kekuta Manneh for the first 30 minutes, then played well the rest of the way. Very well, in fact.

“Early on," said Toronto captain Michael Bradley told reporters afterwards, "they caused us trouble with their speed, athleticism and mobility. But I thought once we got a grip on that we handled the game pretty professionally and pretty well."

After that, Jozy Altidore took over, scoring two goals to match his total in 70 EPL games with Hull City and Sunderland in England.

“I thought Jozy played like a monster," said TFC coach Greg Vanney. "He showed you what he could do, so anyone who questions whether he can score goals, I think he proved something today."

MLS: Week 1 Results & Standings, Week 2 Schedule

Toronto has spent big money before. It signed Bradley and Defoe last season. This year, Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco. The difference is that Toronto has added other pieces around its stars.

In 2014, Bradley had to try to do it all himself. This year, he has Damien Perquis, a French defender who represented Poland internationally, and Frenchman Benoit Cheyrou, a three-time Ligue Best XI pick with Marseille, to share some of the defensive responsibilities. In front of Bradley there's not only Giovinco and Altidore but Robbie Findley, whom Vanney and assistant coach Robin Fraser knew from their days working at Real Salt Lake and picked up in the Re-Entry Draft.

In years past, steals were players MLS clubs snatched away from Toronto. This year, steals like Findley, who scored the winning goal, could get the Reds into the playoffs.

Week 1: Three goals you must watch

1. CLINT DEMPSEY vs. New England. Dempsey punctuated Seattle's total dominance of New England by walking the ball into the goal after as good a passing sequence as you'll ever see in MLS among Marco Pappa, Obafemi Martins and himself.

2. JOZY ALTIDORE vs. Vancouver. All the attention was on Sebastian Giovinco's pin-point pass that fed Altidore for Toronto FC's tying goal in its 3-1 win at the Whitecaps, but it followed tremendous buildup work involving both TFC outside backs, Bradley (of course) and Jonathan Osorio.

3. LLOYD SAM vs. Sporting KC. Sam demonstrated that he can do more than just take on players, scoring with a great individual goal to earn the Red Bulls a share of the points in Kansas City.

What Worked in Week 1 ...

1. EVANS AT CB. Brad Evans, Seattle's jack of all trades, has a new position in 2015: center back. Left in doubt was his availability against the Revs after spending most of the week in Washington at the CBA talks, representing the MLSPU as an executive board member. Seattle coach Sigi Schmid left it up to his captain to decide whether he wanted to play, and except for a bad pass that gave Kelyn Rowe one of New England's few chances, Evans looked very comfortable next to Chad Marshall.

2. DERIC IN GOAL. Starting to open the season for the first time with just 14 starts in six MLS seasons, Tyler Deric came up big in Houston's 1-0 win over Columbus. The Crew dominated much of the match, but Deric made six saves -- including a point-blank stop on Kei Kamara -- to earn the shutout.

3. SHELTON SUB. New York City FC showed little in its opener at Orlando until Coach Jason Kreis brought on Khiry Shelton in the 62nd minute. The No. 2 pick in the 2015 SuperDraft brought some much needed energy to the NYCFC attack and opened up play for David Villa and Mix Diskerud to combine for the game's opening goal.

What Didn't Work in Week 1 ...

1. BINGHAM LEAVES LINE. The one rule of goalkeeping is that if you leave your line, you better get the ball. Installed as the San Jose starter and playing just his sixth MLS game in five seasons, David Bingham was on the verge of earning what would have been a deserved scoreless draw for the Earthquakes at FC Dallas when he raced to the top of the area in an attempt to snag Victor Ulloa's long ball. Unfortunately, he collided with his own defender, Victor Bernandez, and failed to catch the ball or punch it away. The ball came to Moises Hernandez, whose shot was redirected by Blas Perez into the empty net. Will San Jose stick with Bingham in goal? "Why wouldn't I be?" responded San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear. "He's starting. I'm comfortable with him tonight. I'm comfortable with him for the rest of the season."

2. KAH AT CB. Pa-Modou Kah's inconsistent play at center back was a problem for Portland in 2014, and he went unclaimed after his option wasn't picked by the Timbers following the season. Vancouver took a shot on the Gambian-born Norwegian international, but his propensity for making bad mistakes continued as he took down Altidore for the penalty that sealed Toronto FC's win. Whitecaps fans better hope Carl Robinson gets first-year Uruguayan Diego Rodriguez ready to move in alongside Kendall Waston at center back.

3. PHILLY 4-4-2. After experimenting late in preseason, Jim Curtin abandoned the Philadelphia Union's 4-2-3-1 formation it used most of last season for a 4-4-2. The goal was to put pressure on Colorado's new center-back pairing of giants Bobby Burling (6-foot-4) and Axel Sjoberg (6-foot-7). The Union coach admitted it was a risk, and it produced little in the first half. The Union switched back to a 4-2-3-1 with Argentine playmaker Cristian Maidana coming on after striker C.J. Sapong was hurt, and it had to settle for a 0-0 draw.

Peach of a start for Villarreal

Jurgen Klinsmann can't bash MLS after his starting forwards, Altidore and Dempsey, both moved into the MLS scoring lead with a pair of goals in Week 1. Andreas Herzog, the U-23 national team coach, and Tab Ramos, the under-20 coach, will both also take some positives away from the opening weekend of MLS play.

Jose Villarreal, one of the most promising players on Ramos' 2013 U.S. U-20 World Cup team, took a step backwards in 2014 -- "a little bit of a wasted year" is the way Galaxy coach Bruce Arena termed it -- when he went on loan to Cruz Azul in Mexico but never made the first team.

Back with the Galaxy after finishing up last season at Galaxy II, Villarreal won the starting job on the left side for the season opener and scored on a ball "left like a peach" by the Chicago defense for the first goal of the MLS season in the 2-0 win over the Fire.

Arena says Villarreal's best position is as the second forward, but with Robbie Keane ahead of him, Villarreal will have to fight with Bradford Jamieson IV for playing time on the left side until Steve Gerrard arrives in July. His play should earn him a recall to Herzog's U-23s, who will take part in Olympic qualifying in October.

Three of the four U.S. U-20-eligible players who played in Week 1 were players who missed the Concacaf qualifying tournament because of injuries. Jordan Allen, Erik Palmer-Brown and Zach Pfeffer should all get consideration for the trip Ramos is planning to take the U-20s on to England at the end of March.

National Team Watch

U.S. U-23s IN ACTION: Starters: *Dia, Gil, Serna, Trapp, Villarreal. Subs: *Alashe, *Kovar, Okoli, O'Neill, *Polster, *Porter, *Roldan, *Shelton, Zimmerman.
*Made MLS debuts.

U.S. U-20s IN ACTION: Subs: Allen, Miazga, Palmer-Brown, Pfeffer.
Note: Palmer-Brown is also eligible for the U-18s.

Trivia

In 2014, five teams received two yellow cards in a game for diving. In its first game in MLS, Orlando City was handed three yellow cards for diving. Irish referee Alan Kelly earned the wrath of Orlando fans for carding Brek Shea, Kevin Molino and Carlos Rivas.
3 comments about "Jurgen can't complain, and Toronto gets a grip".
  1. Raymond Weigand, March 9, 2015 at 1 p.m.

    "Jurgen Klinsmann can't bash MLS after his starting forwards, Altidore and Dempsey, both moved into the MLS scoring lead with a pair of goals in Week 1." Juergen might have the following coaching perspective ... if you want to become a better soccer player - then you play up against better opponents. The coach probably would have been happier if the two USMNT strikers were shut down - thereby providing the energy to push their games even higher. What you may have missed was a Million dollar offense vs a $60K defense. Unfortunate to watch it was.

  2. Scott Johnson, March 9, 2015 at 5:13 p.m.

    Of course Jurgen can bash MLS. :)

  3. Rick Estupinan, March 9, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.

    THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS,my favorite team,they will be champions this time,believe me!.This was a great beginning.They played with such confidence,it was a pleasure to watch them.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications