Shorthanded offensively in the wake of Jozy Altidore’s strained hamstring, Toronto FC also needs some quick answers at the other end of the field.
Shredded efficiently by Vancouver in a 4-3 loss at BMO Field last weekend, the Reds get right back to work Wednesday with another home game against New York City FC. The expansion doormats of 2015 have been clicking lately and despite being the road team might fancy their chances given TFC’s defensive woes last weekend.
In his postgame comments, head coach Greg Vanney sounded completely perplexed. TFC had conceded just seven goals in nine games prior to the Vancouver meltdown, with the first eight of those on the road. Captain Michael Bradley pointed out that in those first nine games, “we’ve been very hard to play against.” Such wasn’t the case Saturday night.
Kekuta Manneh and Co. ran past TFC backliners at will throughout the match and though Sebastian Giovinco scored twice to tie the game, 2-2,, TFC conceded two more goals in two minutes and a late Drew Moor tally, his first for the club, wasn’t enough. Manneh tallied twice and played a key role in the other two goals as Vancouver took advantage of a team perhaps still floating from a 1-0 win the previous weekend in front of more than 30,000 fans that packed full the expanded BMO Field.
“Our start to the game was pathetic,” said Vanney. “There was a lack of concentration. There was carelessness. We knew the counterattack was going to be the name of the game for them. Vancouver exploited turnovers and burned several members of the back line -- Damian Perquis, Steven Beitashour and Moor all took their lumps – in one-v-one situations. Vancouver scored four goals on just eight shots and zero corner kicks."
“I see it as a blip,” said Vanney. “It was a lack of concentration. That’s uncharacteristic.”
Atlidore’s injury offers opportunity for several players. Homegrown product Mo Babouli, 23, failed to connect on several chances after replacing Altidore late in the first half, but he’s expected to start alongside Giovinco against NYC FC.
NEW WORLD ORDER FOR NEW YORK DERBY? After its game in Toronto, NYC FC has just two days to prepare to host the Red Bulls, yet both teams are under the same time crunch heading into their first showdown of 2016.
Chicago plays the third of three straight away games Wednesday at Red Bull Arena. Its road trip so far hasn't gone well: it scored just one goal in losing to Vancouver and New England. On the other hand, the Red Bulls stumbled as well last Friday, falling at RFK Stadium to D.C. United, 2-0.
As the first team to lose seven games, the Red Bulls are looking nothing like the 2015 Supporters’ Shield winners that lost just 10 of 34 matches. They were second-best in most of the critical phases of play on Friday.
The Fire has won just one of nine games and the Red Bulls are eager to atone for a very lackluster showing last time out. “It’s always great to play again so quickly after a bad loss,” said midfielder Sacha Kljestan to reporters Tuesday. “You think, okay, we’re going back home in front of our fans and hopefully get a good result, and that’s going to wipe away that loss in D.C.”
Yet Kljestan acknowledges the timing of the Fire game, just three days before a derby, could work against the Red Bulls if they’re looking ahead. “It’s a dangerous game for us, because in the past we have played against Chicago when they have been a desperate team, which they might be again now. A team that’s going to clog things up in the back and really do their best and defend and try to keep a shutout while also having a couple of very key attacking guys who are fast on the counterattack.
“So it sets up to be a difficult game for us and a lot of it comes down to mentality again.”