Toronto FC snapped a four game winless streak in Orlando courtesy of two-second half Jozy Altidore goals.
Greg Vanney made two changes to the side that fell to Dallas last week, recalling Benoit Cheyrou and Robbie Findley to the starting XI.
Adrian Heath transitioned from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1 following Orlando City’s three goal defeat to Columbus, replacing Cristian Higuita for Eric Avila, while Tyler Turner started at right back for the suspended Rafael Ramos at right back.
TFC went back to the basics to secure a vital road victory in Orlando: They were organized out of possession, and relied on individual brilliance from their designated players for goals.
Orlando possession/TFC reactivity
Pragmatism was expected from Vanney’s TFC following their first half debacle in Dallas a week prior, and their reactive approach was evident from the opening minute. TFC weren’t eager to push higher up the pitch or swarm the ball to quickly regain possession, thus leading to Orlando’s territorial superiority.
The Reds maintained a low block, dropped into two banks of four to contain space between the lines. Michael Bradley and Cheyrou allowed Darwin Ceren and Amobi Okugo to operate in deeper positions. However, when the Orlando midfield duo moved into the final third, Bradley and Cheyrou quickly harried the opposition.
Orlando’s issue, however, involved Avila and Kevin Molino moving infield into a congested midfield area. Heath’s midfielders often moved into these central positions to receive the ball, and although they found openings in tight spaces, TFC’s back-line cleared their lines continuously.
Orlando’s intent to play through the middle was beneficial to the away side due to their narrow shape. Ramos’ absence deprived Heath’s side of creativity from wide areas, and the production from the fullbacks was underwhelming. Apart from an early Joe Bendik save on Kyle Larin – stemming from Findley being dispossessed in TFC’s half – the Reds’ goalkeeper was untested throughout the first half.
In fairness, the match was filled with several marquee players, but none as big as former World Player of the Year, Kaka. Operating in the no.10 role behind the striker, Kaka was likely expected to provide creativity, yet TFC didn’t go about neutralizing the Brazilian.
The common misconception throughout Kaka’s career is that he’s a natural no.10 capable of playing incisive passes to unlock organized back-lines, but his display against TFC vividly epitomized his style of play.
In the first half, Ceren located Kaka in a deeper position, and the Brazilian zipped past three TFC midfielders to combine with Molino to surge clear on goal, before Perquis quickly intervened. It was a vintage Kaka move that lacked a goal: at his best with Milan, Kaka played behind several playmakers and was provided the freedom to use a sudden burst of pace to evade defender.
Likewise, it was one of the rare occasions were Kaka varied his movement in central areas. The Brazilian was floating on the last shoulder of TFC’s defence, equivalent to forward Cyle Larin. Considering TFC’s line sat on the edge of their 18-yard box, within close proximity of the second band, Kaka was isolated upfront, deprived of service into his feet.
Bradley and Cheyrou’s protection of space in the final third improved throughout the match, thus leading to Kaka drifting into the channels for freedom. However, the Brazilian failed to provide a positive influence as his final ball was underwhelming. Kaka was unable to make penetrating runs into advanced zones due to TFC’s organized shape out of possession, and his reluctance to constantly vary his movement limited his threat.
With Orlando monopolizing majority of possession, it was always going to be interesting to witness TFC’s method of attack. Nevertheless, Jackson nearly scored a remarkable opener from distance, following Larin’s clearance from a corner, but Donovan Ricketts made a key save to keep the scoreline leveled.
Jackson received plenty of the ball down the right flank, but the Brazilian stagnated quick attacks, opting to pass, opposed to taking on his defender. The Reds relied on opportunistic pressing to surge forward on the counter with Bradley and Sebastien Giovinco driving into Orlando’s third on a few occasions, but neither player offered a final ball or finish to punish the hosts.
TFC’s goals followed the same suit. A quick Altidore free-kick saw the American combine with Giovinco, before storming past Ceren and Seb Hines to open the scoring. This was ultimately about the DP’s combining as minutes prior to Altidore’s second, Giovinco and Bradley’s neat combination passes led to the former nearly doubling the Reds’ lead.
Minutes later, Altidore scored a truly remarkable goal. Orlando pushed men forward in search of an equalizer, which could explain why it took Vanney’s men 82 minutes to ignite a counter that didn’t involve powerful running. Cheyrou launched a sensational ball over Hines, and Altidore’s brilliant first touch set the American free to secure maximum points.
The Reds soaked up pressure for long spells, and heavily relied on the quality of their DP’s in transition to punish Heath’s side. Vanney made straight player swaps on the flanks to ensure his full backs were protected, and later turned to Collen Warner to provide additional defensive solidity in midfield.
TFC currently sit at a crossroad. They’re much better in possession this season, but tend to concede goals when their defensive line is higher. On the other hand, although it’s impractical to play reactive football on a weekly basis, TFC have recorded two victories in this manner.
Still, we learned very little about either side. Very few chances were created in open play, with Orlando struggling to get behind TFC’s back-line, whereas the Reds relied on Altidore’s individual brilliance to push them over the line.