Thousands of Vancouver faithful filled Robson Street and marched to BC Place to watch the home team host star-studded Toronto FC. Both head coaches put all their cards on the table and in the end it was Greg Vanney who took home all three points. However, the story is much more complicated than that.
Vancouver came out of the gate flying. Kekuta Manneh had a hay day on the wing as he had TFC defenders chasing their own tails. Pinned back, Toronto hung on for dear life as Joe Bendik was repeatedly forced into saving his team from conceding. In the 8th minute Teibert burst past the TFC backline and sent in a low hard cross to an unmarked Octavio Rivero. Still not accustomed to playing on turf, Rivero missed a painfully easy tap in. A few minutes later Pa Modou Kah split the Toronto defense and found a sprinting Rivero who took a few touches and coolly beat Bendik far post to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead. To their credit, this seemed to give Toronto a boost and soon after Giovinco found Altidore who beat Ousted and tied the game for TFC.
Vancouver continued to dominate but the first half ended with a 1-1 score line. The teams seemed to switch mentalities when they returned after the break. Greg Vanney must have given one heck of half-time talk because TFC’s defense tightened up considerably. Toronto was now on the front foot. Findley would add a second for Toronto in the 59th and Altidore earned and scored the ensuing penalty kick in the dying moments of the game to give Toronto the 3-1 road victory.
I must say Vanney impressed me with his ability to alter his tactics in the second half. Quite frankly, he out coached Vancouver bench boss Carl Robinson. In second half TFC were prepared for the pinpoint passing to sprinting forwards and wingers. Pressuring high up the pitch, TFC effectively shut down Vancouver’s attack. This combined with a struggling and likely injured Pedro Morales meant that the Whitecaps were doomed.
The last nail in Vancouver’s coffin was their mentality, which is often the Achilles heel of youth filled rosters. Personally, I see several positives resulting from this loss. Firstly, Octavio Rivero netted his first goal which will go a long way to boosting his self-esteem. Rivero is the real deal and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he will be one of the league’s top goal scorers in 2015.
Furthermore, Vancouver enjoyed a very successful pre-season and as a result, I believe they were far too full of themselves heading into the match against TFC. They have now been brought back to earth and I would rather that happen during week 1 than week 16.
In my season preview, I discussed at length that it was only a matter of time before Sam Adekugbe took over for Jordan Harvey. After a dismal performance against TFC during which Harvey was at fault for 1 or 2 TFC goals, I would not be surprised in the least if Adekugbe started in Chicago. My biggest concern, other than a long term injury to Morales, is the fact that this defeat acted as a neon sign pointing directly at the painfully obvious problem with Vancouver’s tactics. Speed and more speed.
Hurtado, Manneh, Mattocks and now Rivero all possess speed. Vancouver is a deadly counter-attacking team but that can’t be the only trick up your sleeve. Once Toronto got over their initial shell shock they moved up the pitch, effectively neutralizing the threat. Other teams will have seen how effective this was and will do the same when they face the Whitecaps. It is now up to Carl Robinson to find a solution.