3) Defence showing signs of being more reliable
When TFC won the Supporters Shield — and ultimately the MLS Cup — in 2017, there was plenty of credit to go around. This included the defence, which allowed just 37 goals in league play that season; second-best in MLS.
For all the attacking options the Reds had at the time, they wouldn’t have achieved their glorious treble that year if it hadn’t been for the fantastic play of their back line. As the saying goes: ‘Offence wins games, but defence wins championships’.
There was a stark reminder of this the following season, when TFC failed to make the playoffs despite scoring more goals than half of the clubs who did qualify. This was because they conceded 64 goals, which was joint fifth-worst in the entire league.
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Last season saw a slight improvement by allowing 52 goals; arguably still too many, but at least good enough to return to the playoffs and make it all the way to a third MLS Cup final. This year, the Reds look even stronger in the defensive part of the pitch.
Tuesday’s match was the third shutout of the 2020 league season for TFC. Through six matches they have allowed seven goals in total. (This would work out to just 40 goals over the course of a normal 34-match regular season.)
There are still some teething problems of course, such as giving up a two-goal lead in the second half on opening day in San Jose. Even more frustrating was allowing two late goals in their first match in Orlando, versus D.C United.
However, there is every indication Toronto FC are more invested in their defensive play this season. It also helps that Justin Morrow was back on the bench versus Vancouver, after missing three matches with Achilles tendinitis; his veteran experience and championship pedigree is invaluable.
There is no doubt TFC will face stronger challenges than they did on Tuesday night. Regardless, the signs are promising that the back line is better than last season, which will only boost the challenge for more honours.
What was your opinion of Toronto FC’s performance on Tuesday night? What encouraged you the most, and do you have any concerns? Let us know in the comments section below.