TORONTO – Averaging a goal a game through the first four matches of the season, Toronto FC did not look like the team that scored 17 goals in six playoff matches last year during a run to the MLS Cup final.
But against Atlanta United on Saturday night, at times it seemed that flow had returned.
Sebastian Giovinco was his old self, scoring his first of the year and threatening with regularity. Jozy Altidore played a key role in the Giovinco strike, directing a deft flick into the Italian's path, and carved out several looks of his own.
Newcomer Victor Vazquez not only served Altidore the ball that led to Giovinco's finish, but also helped craft Justin Morrow's goal, freezing Atlanta’s defense just long enough to slip Steven Beitashour down the right side of the box to send in the cross.
It marked the first time all three of Toronto's prime attacking pieces – Altidore, Giovinco, Vazquez – spent an extended period on the pitch together this season.
“I like that the three are getting used to each other,” said coach Greg Vanney postgame. “It's a fresh, new relationship for them. Made progress tonight in that there were a lot of opportunities.
“Seba got more touches today than he was able to get the rest of the year combined,” continued Vanney. “Got a goal, some other looks; good to have him involved. That was a step forward.”
Michael Bradley saw that energy all over the pitch.
“Across the board, our willingness to play certain passes, use each other in tight spots, even against a team that was trying to come at us,” said TFC’s captain, “those things were good.”
But despite those positives, it was not enough to beat an impressive Atlanta side who absorbed all that Toronto threw at them, striking twice to end the match level at 2-2.
“The moments that set up were very good; we just lacked the precision it takes to finish,” explained Vanney. “Were there more goals there for us? Absolutely, if we were a little sharper.
“Intensity, speed, combining with each other, finding open gaps. We were able to get between lines and face forward. We had good runs off the ball,” he added. “That for me was the best game we've had this year in those aspects. A lot of things set up for us tonight to win this game.”
Still unbeaten on the season five matches in, and with so many still to go, Bradley believes it will come together.
“We've just got to keep going,” he said. “I know for a fact that there aren't too many teams that look forward to playing us.”