That botched penalty kick (you know the one) that Alejandro Pozuelo and Pablo Piatti attempted midweek, while Toronto FC were trailing in what ultimately was a 1-0 loss against rivals Montreal Impact?
A second act isn’t in the cards, head coach Greg Vanney said in previewing the Reds’ chance for a bounce-back result Saturday evening at the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (8 pm ET | TSN1, MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US).
“It won't happen again,” Vanney said matter-of-factly. “We talked about it, they talked about it with the group and it’s been addressed there, everybody's fine, we've moved forward, it's in the past. The objective that they had is to score a goal, they wanted to win the game and score a goal. Poz had just taken a penalty kick against that goalkeeper in the game prior so it was something that they worked up between each other. We've all addressed it and it's behind us.”
Watch: Toronto penalty scheme backfires
Gaffe aside, there’s no denying that Pozuelo and Piatti will prove vital should Toronto overtake Columbus Crew SC for top billing in the Eastern Conference standings. The Designated Players each have two goals on the year, while Pozuelo (ex-KRC Genk) has a league-leading seven assists and Piatti (ex-Espanyol) has looked lively at winger since signing this past offseason.
Their PK routine didn’t come to fruition – Piatti encroached on the penalty arc before Pozuelo lightly passed the ball forward for the former's tap-in shot – but their spark is evident.
“Poz and Pablo have a very good relationship on the field, off the field,” Vanney said. “Obviously in the way they play, the style of play that they have, the way they communicate, I think they talk about the game off the field.”
Speaking of star players, Toronto will be without captain Michael Bradley after he suffered a Grade 2 MCL strain in that midweek loss against Montreal. Fellow center mid Emanuel Maciel planted a knee high, stoppage-time tackle that was first deemed a red card, but got changed to a yellow card following Video Review.
Toronto could also benefit from forwards Jozy Altidore and Ayo Akinola hitting another gear, perhaps in partnership. Altidore is yet to score through six matches this season, while Akinola is looking to recapture his form from a five-goal outburst in the MLS is Back Tournament group stage.
“I definitely think it's something that we will look at more as we continue forward,” Vanney said of an Altidore-Akinola pairing. “Jozy is not for me just the typical No. 9 even though he's big and strong and he looks the part and he can finish. He also can drop in at times off the front line, he’s a very good passer as we've seen over this stretch of games in setting up opportunities.
“It gives Ayo also the ability to be high and run through the lines and create space with his speed and power and strength that he has getting behind the backline,” Vanney said. “I think they can be a nightmare for center backs, having to deal with two strong guys like that, Jozy and his clever movements and the timing of his running and his ability to set up things but also score. I think they could be a handful for teams.”