TORONTO – Things did not go quite as planned for Toronto FC on a day when New York City FC put on a tough, physical display, one that seemed to center around negating star attacker Sebastian Giovinco.
Rather than resorting to positional defending or marking, New York City FC contained Giovinco by fouling him repeatedly – a game-high five times, in total. The strategy not only left the Italian forward visibly frustrated in a 2-0 home loss, but was something that TFC head coach Greg Vanney was clearly displeased with.
“[NYCFC] stalled and killed the game at every opportunity, which was clearly a tactic,” Vanney said after the match. “The referees allowed that to happen. For me, when 30,000 fans show up at a stadium, it’s to watch a game play and move. Instead, it was allowed to stop and be choppy and slowed down at every turn. Credit to them, because it worked out for them and they found a way to play us on the day.
“The lesson for me is we have to play with a little more urgency,” Vanney continued. “We’ve got to recognize how the game is being refereed and adjust our performance of being physical and being tight and all those things. We also need to be a little bit sharper."
TFC captain Michael Bradley added that while teams have 90 minutes to play and “everybody’s free to go about it any way they want,” his side wouldn’t necessarily take the brute force approach to the beautiful game.
“That was their way to go about it today,” Bradley told reporters after the match. “Our way? If we’re good enough in what we want to do and sharp enough, well… I don’t think we’re talking about that.
“It was a slow game, you know? Stop and start,” Bradley continued. “In a lot of ways, the game never really found a rhythm.”
Giovinco’s treatment in particular prompted the following question: is fouling the Atomic Ant the template for stopping him?
“A lot of the fouling was happening before the ball actually got to him,” Vanney answered, visibly upset. “He’s got scratches all over him. He’s been kicked a number of times. He’s trying to make a quick run in transition and, boom, he’s getting hit. If that’s the template then we’re going to need officiating to take care of players who people come to watch.
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“For us, is it a template? Maybe. We’ll see,” Vanney continued. “We have to adapt and adjust and find our ways to work around it if that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Giovinco himself was irritated at his treatment throughout the match, and Vanney said he was neither disappointed nor surprised at seeing tempers flare in the second half. Vanney stressed that he’s looking for his team to stick up for each other, too, saying, “Somebody has to take care of it. It can’t be okay.”
Toronto FC have a chance to move past this result, though, taking on bitter rivals the Montreal Impact on Wednesday during MLS Rivalry Week.
“I love that we play again on Wednesday,” Vanney said. “I hope this game pissed us off. It has for me. Hopefully our team has a chip on the shoulder come Wednesday.”