COLUMBUS, Ohio – For Greg Vanney, Toronto FC’s comeback win Wednesday night was less of a chess match and more of a gut check.
Along the way, Vanney was constantly tinkering with his squad. He made a tactical first-half substitution in the 40th minute, sending on Ricketts to replace Chris Mavinga and shifting his team from a 3-6-1 diamond shape to something more akin to their usual 3-5-2.
By the end of the match, Toronto seemed to have played several different formations, pushing striker Jozy Altidore wide right at times and adding wingback Raheem Edwards, who had assists on both Ricketts goals.
And while it was Vanney’s substitutions and changes that ultimately made the difference in the match, the Reds boss said he was simply proud of his team’s ability to grind out a fifth win in a row in a span of 20 days.
“It wasn’t necessarily what I would call our comfort zone, which is why it took some grit and determination to get there in the end,” he said. “It was a game with a few different nuances for us, shape-wise, and we just kept working through it.”
The changes allowed playmaker Victor Vazquez to find a more comfortable position, and that shift was crucial for Toronto. Vazquez picked up assists on both goals, and now has eight assists in eight starts to lead the league.
Ricketts said the Spanish midfielder “controls the attack and momentum” of the team, and Vanney credited Vazquez for fighting through “the amount of defending we had to do” and go a full 90 minutes.
But for Vanney, the biggest takeaway from this stretch has been his team’s depth. He called his squad the “deepest team in the history of the league” last weekend, and after using plenty of his bench against Columbus, Vanney again praised his large selection pool.
“They’re good players,” he said. “It’s a challenge for me to pick who should be on the field each week and each game and to try to make sure that everybody feels like they have a part in it [because] they know they’re fully capable of playing.
“So it puts a lot of pressure on the guys who are starting to do well, because they know those guys are behind. The competition is great for our group. It’s what got us to where we got to at the end of last year and hopefully it’s what’s going to make us great this year.”
That depth may be a bit less necessary when TFC host Minnesota United Saturday (3 pm ET | CTV in Canada, MLS LIVE in US). Superstar Sebastian Giovinco didn’t travel with a slight heel injury, and the striker is expected back this weekend.
“I think it’s very likely,” Vanney said. “He was close for this game, but it became a risk-reward for a longer-term [injury]. But I think he’ll be good by Saturday.”