ORLANDO, Fla. – Many would argue that Toronto FC may be in panic mode for switching to a new formation with just seven days remaining until the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the LA Galaxy on March 7.
But for Toronto FC players, the switch from a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3 in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over Swedish side BK Häcken was a welcome change.
“This reminded me of [TFC's regular-season victory last season over] Real Salt Lake when we played the same formation we played then,” TFC starting goalkeeper Milos Kocic said about the 3-4-3. “It’s much easier to play when you’re organized like that.”
Kocic is right. The implementation of the 3-4-3 last year coincided with Toronto FC’s best spell of Aron Winter’s first season in charge in 2011.
The formation requires designated player Torsten Frings to move from midfield to sweeper, between two center backs. The usual fullbacks – Richard Eckersley on the right and Ashtone Morgan on the left – then act as midfielders and fall back as required to form an impenetrable five-man back line.
Highlights: TFC 3, BKH 1
While Orlando City picked apart the 4-3-3 with slicing runs on Saturday night in TFC’s tournament opener, BK Häcken struggled to create many opportunities against the 3-4-3. Marshaled by Frings, who looks more comfortable in the back, the Toronto back line was prepared for everything that came its way.
“If we don’t chase the game, we keep composure,” Kocic noted. “Let [the opposition] play in their own half and when it comes to our half, we press the midfield and they have no place to play and they have to play long balls where I’m expecting them. When we’re chasing the game all over the field we don’t look as a good team.”
The 3-4-3 formation brought stability and order for Toronto FC against BK Häcken. The Canadian side was balanced, steady and eventually its difference-makers in attack began to find their grooves in the match with rookie Luis Silva and Jamaican international Ryan Johnson doing the damage in the first half.
Based on what has been seen thus far at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, the 3-4-3 may be Toronto’s best chance at beating the Galaxy.
“We haven’t played a team like LA yet in the preseason when it comes to the style of play,” Johnson told media after the match. “That’s something that hopefully Dallas can show us in this preseason [in the group-stage finale]. LA is a unique and special team and it’s going to be a hard match to contain them and the way they sit in and break on the counterattack, those are a lot of strengths that LA has that I think about in the back of my mind.”
Nothing the 3-4-3 couldn’t handle.