TORONTO – The pressure has been on Toronto FC during their 0-8-0 start in MLS play. On Wednesday, they put the pressure on the Montreal Impact.
Applying pressure higher up was a change in approach for the Reds over recent outings, and the tactic helped them to a 2-0 victory in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals.
Instead of sitting back, they took the game to the Impact, scored early and outplayed them despite being reduced to 10 men for more than 73 minutes.
“When everybody’s fighting the way they did tonight, it’s not hard to win,” goalkeeper Milos Kocic told reporters following the victory. “And when we don’t drop back and wait for something to happen. The way we played today is the way we were supposed to play the whole season.”
The game plan evolved from meetings on Monday and Tuesday.
“We were talking about certain things and we decided to pressure them, and I hope we stay that way,” Kocic said.
Toronto FC’s approach in the first leg last week in Montreal was designed not give up a goal by employing a drab defensive style. It wasn’t pretty but it worked – TFC emerged with a 0-0 draw at a time when head coach and technical director Aron Winter felt it was important for the team not to lose again.
The approach to that game and the cautious tactics in last Saturday’s 2-0 loss to D.C. United drew criticism from forward Ryan Johnson.
But the Jamaican international was much happier with the approach to Wednesday’s game. A win and a goal didn’t hurt, either.
“We decided to press a lot higher up the field,” Johnson said. “It just caused them to make a lot more mistakes. We won the ball higher up the field and it was a lot easier for us to create chances.
“We had a lot of numbers high supporting myself and our wingers. It helped out a lot and it felt good and hopefully the players can feel real good about themselves and use this win to give themselves more confidence.”
Also helping Toronto’s cause was the surprise start of midfielder and captain Torsten Frings, who left Saturday’s game in the second half with a right shoulder injury. It appeared the former German international wouldn’t be ready for Wednesday, but Frings took three injections in the shoulder over the past two days to enable him to play.
“Yesterday I did the test and everything was fine,” Frings said. “And the doctor told me it was only pain and we can fix it. I tried for the team and everything was fine today.
“It was a very important game for us, especially at home. We talked a lot about the systems in the last days and the plan was we try to give pressure and it was the right decision.”