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article imageDefoe and Bradley display their class in victory over Sounders

By Tyrrell Meertins     Mar 15, 2014 in Sports
In a match that lacked creativity and guile, Toronto FC’s marquee signings, Jermain Defoe and Michael Bradley issued an emphatic statement to their Major League Soccer rivals at CenturyLink Field.
Although Seattle dominated possession, Nelsen’s side was ruthless in the first half, and they didn’t look back –– albeit a late second half surge from the Sounders.
Nelsen instructed his side to drop into two banks of four, as the wide men pressed the full backs when they received possession. When the Sounders attackers dropped deeper into midfield, Steven Caldwell and Doneil Henry expertly completed timely tackles, thus limiting link-up play. Likewise, the most interesting feat regarding their approach was Bradley’s proactive role in midfield.
The American midfielder covered every blade of grass, displaying an all-around exceptional return to Major League Soccer. While the Sounders possessed a numerical advantage in midfield, Bradley dominated central areas for large portions of the match. Bradley broke up Seattle’s play in midfield, served as a reliable passer that ignited attacks, and energetically pushed forward to press the opposition.
“He [Bradley] initiates a lot of pressure, and he backs it up,” Nelsen said. “He causes turnovers by his presence.”
However, there was one issue with Bradley’s role in midfield; when the American’s press was unsuccessful, TFC was left exposed in midfield. On several occasions he was forced to foul fellow American Clint Dempsey, and when TFC were positioned higher up the pitch, Dempsey found space between the lines to receive the ball. Still, when the Sounders pushed forward into the final third the midfield duo of Bradley and Jonathan Osorio admirably protected their back four.
Surprisingly, Defoe was a peripheral figure prior to the goal, as TFC was pegged into their half. TFC's midfield duo, coincidentally, played key roles in Defoe’s goals. Osorio provided a moment of individual brilliance, when he cleverly turned Marco Pappa, thus playing a defence splitting ball to Defoe, who expertly fired his shot past Stefan Frei. Seven minutes later, Bradley pressed Pappa –– who drifted centrally –– forcing the Sounders midfielder to concede possession. Defoe latched onto the loose ball, ran past Djimi Traore and doubled his tally with a precise finish into the far corner.
"I thought the guys were magnificent in the first half when it came to their football and magnificent in the second half when it came to their desire and their character," Nelsen told reporters.
Nelsen’s side was immaculate when the Reds transitioned from defence to attack, and Bradley was the catalyst. If the American wasn’t playing the initial pass to ignite the break, he was bursting forward with the ball aiming to create legitimate goal-scoring opportunities. TFC received the opportunity to increase their lead in the first half, but wide players Alvaro Rey and Jackson –– who both equally enjoyed positive outings –– failed to provide a final ball.
Sigi Schmid’s tactics were peculiar, but his side improved in the second half due to TFC’s wide players tiring, and their conservative approach. Prior to Dempsey’s goal, Schmid’s men created one chance –– Dylan Remick broke forward and played in an unmarked Obafemi Martins, but Julio Cesar made a key save to deny the Nigerian.
Seattle failed to create chances within the final third, and their loan goal was down to TFC’s midfield losing their shape. Dempsey’s initial pass to Lamar Neagle led to Martins storming down the right flank. The Nigerian approached the edge of the box, and squared the ball to an onrushing Dempsey, who trimmed TFC’s lead to one goal.
Martins and Dempsey continuously dropped deep into pockets of space in the latter stages of the match, but they failed to peg an equalizer. Nelsen replaced the fatigued Dwayne De Rosario with Andrew Wiedeman, and instructed the attacker to drop deeper and form a 4-5-1 without the ball, as the Reds preserved their one-goal lead.
Seattle lacked the quality to break down an organized TFC side, as the start of the Defoe and Bradley era is off to a perfect start. At the moment it’s definitely a bloody big deal.
More about Tfc, Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders, Mls, Major league soccer
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