TORONTO – Brendan Rodgers finds himself at the helm of Liverpool Football Club to enact change, to mold a talented but underachieving side into something resembling the swashbuckling outfit he built at Swansea.
But as Rodgers himself warned Friday evening, expecting that sort of transformation immediately is unwise.
“It’s just going to take a bit of time,” he said. “We’re football coaches and managers not magicians.”
And although Rodgers may not be a magician, it’s clear that some of his philosophical proclivities are starting to take hold following his first game in charge, a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC at the Rogers Centre on Saturday afternoon.
WATCH: Toronto FC vs. Liverpool FC
Liverpool completed 92 percent of their passes against TFC, connecting 660 compared to the home side’s 277 to end with nearly 70 percent of the possession. They looked to build out of the back on the ground, pinging the ball around expertly and patiently until a gap in the defense was exposed.
What they weren’t able to do with any sort of regularity, however, was exploit those gaps in the Toronto backline.
Despite dominating possession and pushing TFC back into their own half for much of the match, Liverpool never exhibited anything resembling a cutting edge. Despite completing more than double the passes TFC could muster, both teams managed four shots on goal.
“I think we’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s very important that we dictate games, we control games, we dominate games,” he told reporters following the draw. “And you’ve seen for large parts of the game in terms of our domination that we forced Toronto back. But it’s just that wee bit of penetration that will get better as time goes on.
“Possession is no good on it’s own. You’ve got to be able to penetrate. I thought some of the movement patterns within that were very very good. For sure, it will get better. It will have to get better.”
What he was happy with, for portions of the match at least, was Liverpool’s ability to force Toronto FC into areas of the pitch in which they weren’t comfortable, perhaps the biggest reason why possession swung so far in their favor.
But what TFC lacked in possession – a development to be expected considering Paul Mariner fielded two separate teams, the second of which was stocked with youngsters – they made up for in commitment, leaving Rodgers convinced this was exactly the kind of test needed in his first game in charge.
“This was a perfect game at our stage of the season. As I said, [they’re] physically strong, compete well,” he said. “Paul’s obviously done an excellent job in the short time that he’s been in here. It was always going to be a good game, and I thought they played very well.”