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article imageCahill and Gilberto see TFC and the Red Bulls play to a draw

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jun 28, 2014 in Sports
Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls shared a point in a fairly open football match at Red Bulls Arena. Ryan Nelsen and Mike Petke utilized similar systems, but oddly neither side cancelled each other out.
The main theme throughout the match was the lack of pressure in midfield, which left gaps of space in central areas to exploit.
Collen Warner and Jonathan Osorio were exceptional in midfield, as they were handed space and time to retain possession and ignite attacks from deep areas. The former’s freedom in a deep role enabled him to play positive passes to ignite attacks, while the latter drifted into pockets of space before driving forward to link play.
The midfield duo linked the midfield and attack superbly in the opening 15 minutes, as the Reds got into dangerous positions on several occasions, but failed to capitalize on their chances. Petke, however, was aware of TFC’s midfield dominance in the opening period and instructed Thierry Henry to drop deeper to close down Warner, forcing the 26-year-old to play conservative passes in central areas.
Likewise, the Red Bulls grew into the match by exploiting space behind TFC left-back Justin Morrow, and creating overloads on his flank. Lloyd Sam and Chris Duvall sprung into great positions down the right flank as Jackson and Osorio failed to protect Morrow, but their deliveries from wide areas were underwhelming.
Secondly, Henry and Eric Alexander began to drift into central areas to overload the midfield. In the 35th minute, the duo combined with the latter finding the former between the lines before playing a pass to the onrushing Ambroise Oyongo Bitolo, and Peguy Luyindla nodded the right-back’s cross past TFC goalkeeper Joe Bendik. Minutes later, Warner and Jackson combined on the left flank with the TFC winger driving towards goal before firing a tame effort at Luis Robles.
Still, Warner and Osorio remained the key figures in TFC’s attack. Six minutes into the second half Warner played a pass into Morrow that led to Defoe skewing his shot into the path of Dominic Oduro, and the TFC winger flashed his shot wide of the net. In the buildup to Defoe’s equalizer, Warner dispossessed Luyindla and instantly played a pass to Osorio in a pocket of space, and the 21-year-old’s ball into space on the right flank saw Defoe guide Oduro’s near post cross into the net.
Osorio, in particular, was calm on the ball, and his 90 per-cent passing rate exemplified his sensational performance. Spaces in midfield grew as the half continued, and Sam nearly pushed Petke’s side back into the lead when he received a pass in a pocket of space, and his effort from distance forced Bendik to make a save. Subsequently, Warner won possession in midfield, and sprung Defoe on the break, which led to Sam committing a foul near the box, thus leading to a fantastic Gilberto free-kick.
Neither manager attempted to change their shape, and reverted to making straight player-swaps in the final 20 minutes. TFC dropped into two banks of four during the latter stages, but Petke’s men lacked the required guile and penetration to present a threat in the final third. However, Tim Cahill’s introduction offered a different element of attack when he pushed forward into the final third towards the end of the match. Cahill won every aerial duel, and his nod on header fell to Wright-Phillips who equalized with seconds to spare.
“I was hoping to bring Tim on in the 88th minute, up 3-0 so the fans could clap him for the wonderful World Cup he had,” Petke said. “Obviously, things change with the score, with the way the game went and we felt to bring Tim on for 15-20 minutes, perhaps something could happen.”
The Red Bulls’ attack was laboured in the final 20 minutes, but their direct approach that maximized Cahill’s aerial prowess proved decisive.
“It’s one of those games where you look beyond the result and look at the performance,” Nelsen said. “I thought the performance was extremely pleasing. We dominated large facets of the game, and the movement off the ball, and the possession was extremely pleasing at times. We had a lot of opportunities and we controlled the game very well.”
TFC enjoyed their best game from an attacking sense all season: they retained the ball, created numerous chances, and their finishing and inability to contain Cahill’s threat deprived the Reds of three points.
Here, Osorio and Warner controlled the midfield, but Nelsen’s side failed to retain possession in the final 10 minutes, and Cahill’s involvement made the difference.
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