Greg Vanney praises Toronto FC despite losing effort in Philadelphia: "It's been an emotional couple days"

TORONTO – Greg Vanney’s first match as the head coach of Toronto FC didn’t exactly go as planned as the Reds fell 1-0 to the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Wednesday.

But Vanney saw plenty of positives, most importantly the energy, focus and positive body language he was looking for in his first match.

“I thought the team put out a great effort, first of all,” Vanney told reporters on conference call after the game. “I thought we worked hard from the beginning all the way through to the end. I can’t fault the effort from the guys; it’s been an emotional couple days and they laid it all on the field.”

Though he hasn’t had much time to implement changes, in the few days he’s been in charge Vanney says he has already tried to adjust to some of the tactics and decision-making of his team, which he pointed out after the match.

“We had to work through some things in the first half,” Vanney explained. “We weren’t able to really move our attack into the opposition’s half and from a possession standpoint, they sat back and waited for us, and our spacing and positioning wasn’t such that we really made them make some decisions.

“One of the things we talked about today was trying to be a little more forward-thinking with that initial pass out of transition,” Vanney continued. “In the first half, we weren’t winning balls where we were looking to win balls. We were getting a little bit stretched out.”

The new TFC boss also pointed to a positive display of concentration and focus, another aspect he and general manager Tim Bezbatchenko outlined as needing to change.

“I thought, in general, the concentration was good,” Vanney said. “We faced 10 corner kicks and we adapted the way we deal with corner kicks just in the last day and we managed to get ourselves to do a pretty good job with those. But we know in the locker room, we need to improve on a few things tactically along the way.”

Those tactical changes won’t be made easily, especially with Toronto's roster growing ever thinner by the day. Vanney revealed that Jonathan Osorio, taken off at halftime, was now dealing with a possible hamstring or quad injury. Gilberto only played 45 minutes due to calf tightness, Jackson didn’t travel due to treatment and Jermain Defoe won’t be back until much later in the month.

Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow remain out with injury, and the back line now faces a new absence after Ashtone Morgan’s red card.

Will he be looking to sign any new players with so many missing?

“With Morgan red-carded, clearly I’m going to have to re-evaluate what options we have and make some form of adjustment,” Vanney said. “I just don’t know exactly that is just yet.”

It’s understandable: Vanney has only been in charge for less than a week. But he sees a base for TFC to build on. With only nine games left in the season, he’ll hope they can construct quickly.

“We put in a valiant effort and we should be proud of that,” Vanney said of his debut. “Now we have to build on the soccer side.”