Toronto FC may be one of the richest clubs in Major League Soccer, but Wednesday night they couldn’t buy a goal.
The Reds dominated their match against D.C. United at BMO Field but, time and again, came up short, despite midfield whiz Alejandro Pozuelo leading attack after attack on the visitors’ goal.
In the end, Toronto came away with a point from a 0-0 draw. TFC had lost two in a row coming into the mid-week match, but Wednesday’s result had to be especially frustrating for the home side, as well as the 26,116 supporters on hand. The Reds played like a team possessed and hungry for a result. Countless times, they picked up the ball in the box but were unable to get off a solid kick.
The stats certainly told the story: Toronto fired 35 shots at the D.C. net compared to three by United. The final shot was a redirection towards the goal by sub Terrence Boyd just before time expired. The 35 shots were a club record, breaking the former mark of 28 set back in 2012, and the third highest tally attempted ever in a regular-season MLS game. It was also the most shots taken in the MLS by a team without a goal being scored. The Reds had 13 shots on target, while United had two. As for overall possession, TFC had the ball 71% of the time and had 10 corner kicks to two for United.
“I think the only thing that was missing today was a goal,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney. “The guys couldn’t have played any harder. They dominated the game from the first minute to the last minute.
“This is as dominating a performance as there has been, but we don’t have the goal to show for it, which is the only frustration in that room right now,” added Vanney. “But I think everybody is proud of the effort and the work. I asked them to come out and go for the game from the beginning because I thought we were very slow at getting started in the last home games before that. And I felt like they had their foot on the gas from minute one to the last minute.”
Part of the reason for Toronto’s lack of finish was that leading scorer Jozy Altidore (tied with Pozuelo with five goals) was not in the lineup. Altidore, who missed three games prior to last Saturday’s match against Philadelphia because of a hamstring injury, appeared healthy following training on Tuesday but it was reported on game day that he suffered a heel injury.
“I think we need more,” said Vanney, when asked if his club has enough firepower with Altidore not playing. “I think that’s been evident for a while. It’s something we definitely have to consider, and have talked about.”
D.C. cooach Ben Olsen elected not to start his three attacking stars, Wayne Rooney, Luciano Acosta and Paul Arriola. Rooney leads United in goals (six) and assists (four). The former Manchester United star came on in the 48th minute, along with Acosta, but even with those two on the pitch, D.C. United mounted very little attack.
“I thought in terms of putting the game on our terms, being aggressive, playing in their half, trying to win the ball back quickly, re-pressing, doing it over and over and over and over again for 90 minutes, I thought we were very, very good,” said Reds captain Michael Bradley, a rock at midfield. “Obviously frustrating not to be able to make a play and get a goal, but we said afterwards, if we continue to play like that, if we continue to play with that mentality, if we continue to play with that aggression, then we’re going to be in a good spot.”
TFC’s best chance came around the 33rd minute when Jordan Hamilton scissored a shot off the crossbar.
Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, who seems to have taken the main starting keeper job away from Alex Bono, had to make a big save early in the first half. TFC defender Chris Mavinga was solid at both ends, often joining the attack. Toronto midfielder Nick DeLeon was disappointed that Vanney elected to take him out of the game at the half against his former club, but said it was a “tactical decision”.
Toronto did have veteran defender Drew Moor starting for the first time in six matches and was solid on the back line with Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019