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article imageToronto FC dominate midfield but the Impact lacked a gameplan

By Tyrrell Meertins     Aug 3, 2014 in Sports
Toronto FC snapped their four-game winless streak with a convincing victory over Frank Klopas' Montreal Impact at Saputo Stadium.
Both managers played identical systems with two strikers, and contrasting wingers –– one provided natural width, while the other drifted into central areas –– to offer balance. Gilberto started –– ahead of the injured Jermain Defoe –– alongside Luke Moore, while Jonathan Osorio featured on the left flank.
Here, Ryan Nelsen’s side dominated majority of the match due to Montreal’s lack of pressure in midfield. Michael Bradley and Collen Warner received ample space in midfield to receive the ball and string passes together, while the movement of Osorio into central areas provided an additional outlet.
TFC took the lead in the opening 10 minutes, and Gilberto’s goal epitomized three key factors that led to their success.
First, Gilberto’s link up play throughout the match was superb, and he dropped deep to play an initial pass into the left flank. Secondly, Osorio’s movement into central areas offered left-back Justin Morrow with acres of space to exploit in wide areas. Lastly, Bradley received the ball and combined with Dominic Oduro in half-space, and his cut-back pass fell to Gilberto who fired his effort past goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
Gilberto was the subject of several gruesome tackles, but when space was available he cleverly turned defenders, and drifted into key areas to create and receive chances.
Likewise, TFC successfully overloaded the midfield as Osorio’s presence ensured that the Red’s retained possession in central areas. According to whoscored.com, Warner, Osorio and Bradley completed over 50 passes, with each player exceeding a 90 per-cent passing rate. Bradley, in particular, produced arguably his best performance in a Reds uniform, dictating the tempo of the match, and serving as the catalyst in both goals.
“Michael Bradley, it was his best performance in a Toronto FC shirt by a long way,” Nelsen said.
“Gil, he’s used to the league now. His body’s getting used to it, he’s stronger now and in all honesty he’s only going to get better and better.”
Subsequently, Bradley received time and space to play an exceptional ball behind Montreal left-back Krzysztof Krol to Oduro, who drove towards goal and his deflected cross fell into the path of the onrushing Luke Moore, and the striker tapped the ball into an open net to double TFC’s lead.
“At the end of the day, it’s tough because I know we put a lot into it,” Klopas said.
“We were very flat. I’m ready to do what’s in the best interest of the club. Just from an energy standpoint, we didn’t do enough. We did too much, we were tired, the heat – those are all excuses.”
In a match with minimal chances created, Nelsen’s side was equally impressive without the ball. In fairness, the home side was poor in possession, offering very little in the final third. Warren Creavalle contained Andres Romero’s threat, while Doneil Henry’s timely recovery runs ensured that Justin Mapp didn’t exploit space behind Morrow.
“I think we were in a lot better control,” Nelsen said.
“[Defenders] Warren Creavalle, Doneil Henry and Nick Hagglund are in their early 20s, Justin Morrow and [goalkeeper] Joe Bendik are still young and it was a very experienced and composed performance in the back. We possessed the ball with control and with purpose instead of just for possession’s sake. In the end, the performance was fantastic.”
Montreal lacked a concrete game plan, as they offered TFC too much space in midfield to dictate the tempo of the match, and they appeared clueless when they pushed into the final third. The Impact created a handful of chances in the dying minutes of the second half, but a combination of guile, penetration and discipline was non-existent.
This was a straightforward TFC victory that saw their midfield benefit from the opposition’s naivety in central areas to claim the required three points.
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