Toronto FC saw their winning streak end last week with a 1-1 draw at the New York Red Bulls, but their 5-0 win against Columbus Crew SC this week left little doubt about who the best team is right now in MLS.
And as surprising as the Reds' scoring outburst was, given they were without star strikers Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, the stellar defensive performance from Greg Vanney’s side deserves much the same credit. Toronto’s coaching staff did a great job of preparing the back three of Eriq Zavaleta, Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga.
The three center backs effectively managed the space in front of them, squeezing the space behind Toronto’s five midfielders when they needed to.
The back three were particularly good controlling the space between them and their goalkeeper Alex Bono. They prevented almost all of the Crew SC's attempts to play the ball in behind them. Although Columbus had 63.6 percent of the possession to go along with 11 shots, the TFC defenders’ ability to keep the play in front of them allowed 0 of those 11 shots to be on target, a driving force behind the clean sheet.
San Jose’s Thompson Makes a Statement
The San Jose Earthquakes ended up with a 4-2 loss at the hands of the LA Galaxy Saturday night but head coach Dominic Kinnear made a good decision to give Tommy Thompson his first 90 minute shift of the season.
Thompson was critical to both of San Jose’s goals. He assisted Danny Hoesen in the 37th minute with a simple pass to the six yard box. And halfway through the 10th minute, the 21-year-old’s defensive anticipation allowed San Jose to regain possession in their attacking third— where just 10 seconds later the Earthquakes scored their first goal of the match.
Thompson made his presence felt well beyond just these two moments as well. He involved all over the field, impacting them game both defensively and offensively as seen below.
The green squares and arrows represent completed passes, the yellow arrow represents a chance created, the blue arrow represents an assist, the yellow triangles represent ball recoveries, the green triangles represent tackles and the blue triangles represent interceptions.
It would be surprising if Thompson doesn’t get significantly more minutes in the future after showing Kinnear that he made the right decision to play him the full match.
Sporting KC’s Positioning
Sporting Kansas City did not get the job done on Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids, but Peter Vermes’ side dominated the match with 73 percent of the possession and outshooting the Rapids 25-6.
Vermes’ staff prepared their team well for Colorado's 4-4-2 personnel, finding the pockets of space between Colorado’s two banks of four.
As seen above, this type of recognition off the ball from the Sporting KC forwards led to dangerous free kicks, asked a lot questions of Colorado’s backline and put pressure on Rapids midfielders to fill in when defenders were pulled out of position.
It should be noted that Colorado being ahead for the vast majority of the match greatly affected how the match played out.