Toronto FC 0:1 Oklahoma City Energy. It’s only pre season, it’s only pre season.

Oklahoma certainly kept things tight in the middle.

Oklahoma certainly kept things tight in the middle.

Ah TFC, it’s good to have you back. The dreamy hype or cynical negativity of pre season can be put away and we can deal with reality, with actual evidence of how things will work out. One game in, how’s it looking?  Oh.

The first thing to say is the obvious one, this is pre season, it doesn’t really matter, it’s just another step in the process of being ready to go on March 7th. Anything I’m about to say is merely an observation, not in any way a conclusion. With that said, here’s some random thoughts about the game.

Did anyone else notice that it was unseasonably cold in Florida, and windy. I’m not sure the commentator mentioned it.  Any commentating sins were forgiven through for the magnificent exasperated sigh he let out when Steven Caldwell decided to pass back to Chris Konopka rather than try and find Warren Creavalle who was apparently making a good run.  Excellent stuff, saying more than any words could.

There were some good things about TFC’s performance for sure, defensively they seemed generally untroubled, Greg Vanney in his post game interview said that that’s the main thing they’ve been working on in training and (to be fair, at both sides of the pitch) it showed. Obviously pres season, against a lower division team so best not to think too much of the evidence, but I do like that Vanney is focusing on the defence. As an unabashed Preki fan, I’ve long pined for the coaches to do just that, then trust that the forwards are talented enough to be able to create things on their own, this group definitely has the potential for that.  There’s obviously a balance to be found as I’ll get into later on here, but that’s a good place to start, hopefully it continues.

As for that defence, at first glance Damien Perquis looked alright, in an underworked way, so that’s a promising sign, his 10 second half minutes taking him past Geovanny Caicedo’s all time low bar. The big defensive news of course was the omission of Steven Caldwell from what looked like an obvious first attempt at a full on first team. Whether that’a a sign of things to come or not, who knows, and I do like the idea of one of the experienced CB’s teamed with one of the younger ones as a partnership, but it was definitely a bit of a surprise to see Nick Hagglund there ahead of him, it’s a situation worth monitoring.

Moving further up the pitch and as far as attacking goes, what we saw was some very deliberate possession play.  Michael Bradley often dropping deep, Benoit Cheyrou looking composed on the ball, and with a lot of passing around at the back looking for the right opportunity.

Where there’s still work to be done here showed in the fact that those opportunities didn’t really come all that easily, it was all just a bit too slow really and it was rare that TFC managed to get the ball past an organised OKC defence to Jozy Altidore up front. More often than not, the moves eventually ended up out on the wings, with both full backs getting into the attack a lot, and Justin Morrow in particular showing a lot of rustiness in his crossing ability. Ashtone Morgan, one of an entire team’s worth of subs in the second half looked good in that role.  The lack of defending needed made for a perfect situation for him to play to his strengths really.

Where Vanney’s stated lack of attention on attacking play in training so far really showed up was in Sebastian Giovinco. Played in the number 10 role behind Altidore, with Osorio and Findley as the wide midfielders/wingers, he showed off plenty of skill and gave the impression he’d be fun to watch this year, but confirmed he’s not going to be able to do it on his own.  Time and again he dribbled just a bit too much, beating one defender but not the 2nd who was quickly there to help out, and lost possession. As the half wore on and into the second half, he seemed to instead opt for long low percentage shots that didn’t trouble the Energy goalie, it was like watching Alen Stevanovic again.

The obvious initial impression was ‘wow, he needs to learn how to share’, but that would be way too harsh as it’s as much down to the team as it is him, it’s not like there were players crying out for passes. As the team gels and becomes more familiar with each other and more active with their off the ball running and thus providing more options, those passes will come. That will also make it harder for the opposition to focus on him, thus giving his dribbling a better chance of working as well.

I have confidence that they will eventually figure all that stuff out, but one option to make it a bit easier would be to move Giovinco out to the wing. In that game, OKC seemed to have two defensive priorities, clog up the middle, and don’t give Giovinco space. Giovinco in the number 10 spot meant they were able to happily do both at the same time, have him out wide and instead they’re forced to pick their poison. Clog up the middle and the ball will eventually make it’s way to Giovinco with room to manouevre. Focus on Giovinco, have midfielders drift wide to help out the full back, and that’s just going to open up space in the middle for the likes of Osorio, Cheyrou or Bradley.

Beyond that, what have we learnt? That Luke Moore shouldn’t be taking penalties. That was just a hot stuttery mess.

Finally, a standing ovation to Ashtone Morgan who’s in prime mid season form when it comes to the art of interviewing and saying absolutely nothing through cliches. A masterclass.

One other thing from the interviews, which you can see better in Cheyrou’s interview. That looks very much like what’s been leaked as the new kit. Dark adidas stripes, pinstripes on the front and all that. Were they wearing the jersey over a hoodie, or is this some kind of jersey/hoodie hybrid thing? If so (and only if it doesn’t have the sponsor) I could well be tempted into buying one of those).

Author: Duncan Fletcher

Blogging journeyman formerly of Cruel Geography and Waking the Red, also briefly with Sportsnet and every now and then with the Guardian. As a supporter of Darlington, TFC, England and Canada, football's been unfair and poking fun at Duncan for decades now, so it's only fair he does the same right back at it. Follow him on twitter @duncandfletcher

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