Despite failing to have a full squad at his disposal — including the currently injured Jozy Altidore — the Reds have flourished under Vanney’s tactical alteration. Warren Creavalle replaced the injured Collen Warner in midfield, whereas Eriq Zavaleta retained his starting role at centre-back alongside Damien Perquis.
In truth, it’s difficult to highlight a significant feat in TFC’s current diamond – put simply, the Reds appear to be carrying out Vanney’s instructions with devastating efficiency. The Reds’ win over San Jose, snapping the away side’s five game unbeaten streak, served as another prime example of TFC’s improved tactical discipline this season.
The key player, however, was Sebastian Giovinco. The away side couldn’t cope with the Italian’s movement throughout, as Giovinco constantly moved to the left flank — an area where majority of TFC’s best chances stemmed from in the first half — to isolate defenders.
But the variety in Giovinco’s movement was equally impressive. The Italian nearly received Benoit Cheyrou’s long ball over the defence before goalkeeper David Bingham cleared his lines, and he picked up Luke Moore’s chest down from a Justin Morrow long ball to subsequently evade a few challenges in the box, but fired his effort off the wood work.
“We knew he [Giovinco] was capable of some electrifying things,” Vanney said. “He’s incredible. He gets you isolated in one-on-ones and then you’re in big trouble.”
When Giovinco wasn’t stretching the defence with runs off the last defender, he made clever darts into half space to receive the ball. The 28-year-old charged into this space to receive Jonathan Osorio’s reverse ball to create TFC’s opener, and the duo combined again in the second half, as Giovinco easily beat his marker but fired his shot wide.
As in many games this season, Vanney’s side employed a deeper block, enabling the away side to dominate possession on they took the lead. The Reds were reluctant to press midfielders Khari Stephenson and J.J. Koval when they received the ball, with most emphasis on shuttlers Osorio and Creavalle closing down the fullbacks, whilst ensuring the two banks of four reduced space between the lines.
Without a natural creative player in midfield, and productivity from wide areas negated, Dominic Kinnear’s men encountered difficulties creating chances in the final third – in the opening 17 minutes, they fired three ambitious efforts from distance wide of the net, highlighting their frustration.
But with the away side desperately pushing for an equalizer, space opened up for Bradley to carry the ball in transition, whereas Giovinco posed a legitimate threat on the break. TFC’s third goal epitomized their impact: the Italian received Giovinco’s long ball in the right channel before driving into half space and setting up Moore for a simple tap in to secure maximum points.
Kinnear’s men applied no pressure on Bradley in the final 15 minutes, and he was free to play positive passes and storm forward in transition, creating a chance for Giovinco that was saved, and igniting a break that led to Osorio wasting an inch-perfect ball from the 28-year-old. Giovinco, on the other hand, simply made diagonal runs into space in both channels to receive simple outlet balls, before turning towards goal to attack San Jose’s defence.
“They [TFC] defended well,” Kinnear said. “They sat deep and they let us play around them, but not really through them. And I thought our service – we had an opportunity to cross quite a few balls today, and give them credit for putting pressure on the ball, but I thought we were off a little bit in that department today.
San Jose’s attempt to mount a comeback saw Kinnear modify his 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 with Cordell Cato and Shea Salinas join Stephenson in midfield before breaking to the flanks when they attacked; likewise, Mark Sherrod replaced Koval, joining Chris Wondolowski and Adam Jahn upfront. The non-existent combination play between Wondolowski and Jahn improved following Sherrod’s arrival, as the three strikers were within close proximity of each other – however, the adventurous change proved beneficial to TFC in transition.
This was a comfortable TFC victory that further showcased their understanding of Vanney’s simplistic, yet effective approach, but nevertheless, it was Giovinco who shone brightest against the Earthquakes. The Italian recorded the most shots, key passes, take-ons, and fouls suffered, but more importantly made a genuine case for being the league’s best player.