NEW YORK – Playing in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium is difficult enough. But facing a unique formation and conceding twice in the opening half hour proved especially problematic for Toronto FC Sunday.
But instead of wilting, as perhaps might have been the case in previous years, TFC chipped away and rallied for a 2-2 draw against New York City FC.
“It’s a big sign of the character of this squad,” defender Drew Moor said. “Obviously we don’t want to put ourselves down two-nil anywhere, but on the road, in a tough environment, against a good team, to fight back and stay calm and maybe even have a chance to win it at the end, it’s a good sign at this point in the season.”
New NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira unveiled a completely different formation than the 4-3-3 he utilized in a 4-3 win at Chicago last weekend and that puzzled Toronto FC, hindering its attack in the middle of the field.
“It wasn’t just a 3-4-3. It was three, then a box in the middle of the field and three guys so they overloaded the middle of the field,” TFC coach Greg Vanney said. “Against our three, they had four. Between [Andrea] Pirlo and [Federico] Bravo, there were two guys sitting deep so it was a matter of how we were going to reorganize getting pressure on those players.”
The response was to tuck Jonathan Osorio and Tsubasa Endoh in centrally to deal with Pirlo and Bravo in the middle of the field. That allowed for a late first-half push that ultimately led to a critical goal by Damien Perquis just before halftime.
“Once we were able to tilt things in those ways, I thought we were able to make things a little bit harder and we were able to force them into some places that turned over in a good way for us,” Toronto captain Michael Bradley said.
There was more possession, and chances, in the second half and Sebastian Giovinco exploited gaps that emerged in the NYCFC defense to score the equalizer in the 76th minute. It was already TFC’s third goal after the 75th minute this year, after leading MLS with 17 of those goals a year ago.
“It wasn’t a perfect start,” Bradley said. “But the response was very good, the mentality was great and we’ll take that point and move on.”
And when that point is combined with the three earned across the Hudson River in Harrison against the Red Bulls last weekend, it adds up to a positive start to the season for Toronto FC.
“There’s still a lot that needs to be worked on. But given everything, to start the year with two difficult games on the road like this and to come away with four points, I think every guy should feel good about what we’re doing – and realize there’s still a lot of room for improvement,” Bradley said.