Three Things: Jonathan Osorio's ascent, Revs get overrun, Luis Gil as playmaker | Armchair Analyst
It's too early to draw any long-term conclusions from this 19th season of Major League Soccer. We don't know that Toronto FC are going to charge to the top of the Eastern Conference behind a rain of goals from Jermain Defoe, and we don't know if Will Bruin is going to ride this horse called luck to a golden boot.
We do know – or have reason to suspect – that the CCL is taking the mickey out of its participants, as it seems to do every year in March and April.
We might have a measure of certainty about a few other things – Philadelphia's improvement, Goonies redux, Mike Petke's love of cardigans.
But we're not really sure. Not until we hit at least the 15 percent mark.
So remember, folks: Read carefully. These are data points, not conclusions.
A trio of things to consider from Saturday:
1. Toronto show faith in Jonathan Osorio
One of the reasons I was (still am) hesitant to jump on the Toronto FC bandwagon is because there wasn't a rock-solid central midfield partner for Michael Bradley (who was great today, for what it's worth). That they did everything to keep Matías Laba, up to and including badly mixing their metaphors, suggests that the BMO Field brain trust felt something close to the same.
Their tepid – awful, really – preseason form meant that the critics brought knives. No matter who Bradley was paired with, there were gaps all over the place, and the backline was being pulled apart every time out.
Didn't really happen much against Seattle on Saturday. Jonathan Osorio had a pretty, pretty pass on Defoe's first:
More importantly, though, is that he took up good defensive positions and allowed his movement to be based off of what Bradley was doing.
That was new, and that should be the most encouraging takeaway of the day for TFC. That kind of positional maturity from Osorio means that Bradley is going to get to be a box-to-box player (as he was Saturday), and not have to hamstring himself into a purely defensive role.
If Osorio can reprise this week after week, that significantly raises the ceiling for Toronto.
2. The Revs might be stuck
New England were a trendy pick to compete at the top of the East this season, and on the face of it, it makes sense: They were a young team in 2013 that jelled and improved, and why shouldn't that continue?
Because now they've been scouted, and now they're being overrun in central midfield. And that's causing a cascade of positional issues that's led to this early-season sputter.
Fair enough, right?
Not really. Playing that formation meant Lee Nguyen had to find the ball and control play as a creative, pure central midfielder.
Here are his first half touches:
Touch maps don't tell the whole story, of course – his lack of action there is as much the fault of everyone around him as it is his own. But that lack of action from the guy playing as a No. 10 behind a lone forward is worrisome.
Which brings us to the other problem: Teal Bunbury can't play as a lone forward in this current system. He's not the instinctive passer Juan Agudelo was from that spot, and isn't a Conor Casey-type beast at holding the ball up.
So now, holding the ball up becomes a team effort. But because of the necessity of playing with the double-pivot of Dorman and Caldwell, Bunbury has one fewer outlet to rely upon.
Thus it's no surprise that the Revs played their best at the start of the second half, when they ran a 4-4-2 with the double pivot. Once they subbed Dorman off for another attacker, though, it came apart again.
New England need that extra steel in deep midfield or stuff like this is going to happen a bunch. But they need another attacker to play with Bunbury, or they'll keep throwing zeroes.
I think they go 4-4-2 and end up playing very direct soccer, much like last year's Chicago Fire team.
3. Luis Gil is becoming a playmaker
I still see Gil as more of a box-to-box player, but games like Saturday night's 3-3 draw at San Jose and last season's win at Vancouver are making me double- and triple-check my rationale. He's become much more comfortable driving the bus.
I'm not ready to go this far yet:
— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) March 16, 2014
But I might be, soon. And I understand why Jeff is there now.