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article imageBiello's tactical change foils Vanney's naive Toronto FC

By Tyrrell Meertins     Oct 30, 2015 in Sports
Toronto FC was thoroughly outplayed in the second half of their 2-1 loss to Mauro Biello’s Montreal Impact Sunday night, so it was a surprise to see Greg Vanney name an unchanged XI in the club’s first post-season game against the same opposition.
That night, Biello’s astute tactical alteration saw the Impact transition from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3, ultimately shifting a match the Reds looked destined to win following a one-sided first half. The decision was fairly simplistic: Biello’s side played with additional width to improve service to Didier Drogba, whilst outnumbering TFC in central areas to gain control of the match.
Tactical changes tend to be overlooked in certain scenarios, but here, Biello’s pluck tainted TFC’s season. Dilly Duka and Patrice Bernier slotted into the Impact XI, pushing Ignacio Piatti to the left flank — an area of the pitch where the Argentine cleverly breaks into when the Impact counter-attack. Though crosses into the box decreased on the night, the Impact’s dominance in midfield persisted, whilst Biello clearly instructed his side to exploit space behind make-shift right-back, Jackson.
TFC midfield duo, Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou dominated the first half on Sunday due to Montreal’s preference to sit off the ball, and Piatti’s reluctance to press the deepest midfielder. Biello’s change, however, enabled two energetic midfielders, Patrice Bernier and Nigel Reo-Coker to constantly harry the Reds duo, preventing either from dictating the tempo of the match. Apart from a deep Cheyrou ball into the left channel for Sebastian Giovinco that forced Evan Bush to make a vital save, both Bradley and the Frenchman failed to link midfield attack.
On the other hand, TFC retreated into two banks of four to limit service into Drogba — the Ivorian was forced to drop deeper into midfield to receive the ball and attempted a few clever reverse balls into wide areas — while as the match progressed, Giovinco and Altidore lost interest in closing down Impact holding midfielder, Marco Donadel, who freely ensured the Impact retained possession.
“One of our best performances of the year,” Impact coach Mauro Biello said.
Still, the most significant theme of the match involved Piatti’s dominance down the left flank. Piatti’s reluctance to track the Brazilian’s powerful run in the second minute – where Reo-Coker shuttled towards the flank for cover – may have worried Biello, yet the Argentine bamboozled the Brazilian twice in the opening 12 minutes to set the tone for the remainder of the half.
With both TFC full-backs pushing forward, and no holding midfielder dropping deep to cover, Piatti constantly darted into vacant space in the left channel, thus forcing centre-back Josh Williams out of his comfort zone.
Jackson’s defensive positioning, and insistence to go forward has been one of the cons associated with the Brazilian’s role as a make-shift right-back, and he was equally exploited in two of the three goals. The right-back’s limp attempt to cut off Reo-Coker’s pass to Piatti in the left channel resulted in Bernier’s opener. Then, Jackson was outmuscled in the Impact half by Drogba, which resulted in a superb counter that witnessed the Ivorian drift behind the Brazilian — who was caught out of position — to direct a Bernier cross past goalkeeper Chris Konopka.
"To me, they just out-competed us in the first half," Vanney said of the Impact. "We made some poor decisions defensively on plays to step to or to drop off of. And we found ourselves up against it quickly."
Vanney’s attempt to ignite a miraculous comeback involved TFC turning to a 3-5-2 with Eriq Zavaleta moving into the back-line, but apart from a Giovinco free-kick that nearly beat Bush, the second half was drab. Considering the poor second half showing Sunday night, it was odd to see Vanney persist with the same XI and overall approach. With a natural holding midfielder on the bench, there was no need for two strikers upfront in an away playoff match, and the TFC manager’s naïve attack-minded approach was heavily exploited.
TFC’s entire back-line required protection, and with the Impact midfield trio commanding central areas, it was evident that Vanney was required to react to Biello’s modifications. More so, the Impact were superior in every aspect of the match, and worthy winners on the night: Biello outwitted Vanney for the second time in a week, as his transformation into one of the most fascinating coaches in MLS continues.
More about Toronto FC, Montreal impact, Drogba, Piatti, giovinco
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