2) Makeshift defence holds its own
The Toronto FC backline was coming off a demoralising performance versus the Red Bulls. They were repeatedly ripped apart on the way to conceding four first-half goals and there was a lot of concern about how they would perform in Columbus.
These concerns weren’t helped, after Carlos Salcedo was issued with a retroactive red card for a terrible foul he committed against the Red Bulls. The situation was only made worse by injuries to Jacob Shaffelburg, Chris Mavinga and Shane O’Neill, with the latter only on the substitutes bench as a last resort.
As a result of all this, head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley gave Lukas MacNaughton and Kadin Chung their first MLS starts. They were joined by Michael Bradley, who moved from midfield to form a three-man defence.
What followed was an excellent performance from the backline. Bradley, playing in the middle of the three-man defence, used the benefit of his considerable experience to lead the way.
MacNaughton and Chung were extremely impressive, with the step-up from the Canadian Premier League not appearing to have fazed them. Despite TFC’s shaky start defensively this season, they both offer reason to be encouraged long-term about the backline.
Chung’s performance was made even more impressive, when considering he usually plays at fullback. He certainly rose to the challenge, leading the team in pass percentage (90.5 percent), tied for second with Bradley in tackles (four) and third for duels (seven).
MacNaughton showed his physicality and toughness throughout. This was highlighted after taking an elbow to the face late on in the first half but seeing no drop-off in his performance; his opponent really should have received a yellow card.
Overall, you would not think this was the first time the three had played together in defence for a competitive game. And while it is unlikely to become a regular occurrence, it as least gives Bradley another viable option to consider moving forward.