Sunday was a telling game. It told us that NYCFC still has plenty of room for growth. It told us that, indeed, Toronto are a talented, deep, and well coached team. It told us that Pirlo’s defensive shortcomings cannot be outweighed by his “sublime passing.” So many things went wrong and they’ve been laid out by my fellow writers on Hudson River Blue, looking inward towards this Patrick Viera-led squad. I am going to attempt to look at Toronto, and what they have done to ensure consistent success.
Jozy Altidore, 27
Michael Bradley, 30
Seba Giovinco, 30
If you watched the game’s broadcast on Sunday, you heard often how many of TFC’s goals in the past few seasons can be attributed to these 3 players. Spoiler: IT’S A LOT OF THEM. TFC managed to acquire an attacking trio that works well together, and none older than 30. DP signings are huge in MLS, and TFC figured out how to win with their 3 spots.
Much of Toronto’s success over the past two seasons has been attributed to their robust academy, reserve squads, and deep bench. Toronto has found a way to effectively foster an environment where their young players are given time to grow into the game and unleashing them when appropriate. When Toronto suits up 18 players, it’s a safe bet that most of the players on the bench are as effective as whose in the starting 11 (DPs aside). This is why Toronto has been able to maintain their winning form through the International Break and through injuries. They are a deep squad. NYCFC is a far cry from that comfort-level.
This is maybe the most important factor separating the two clubs right now. Yes, Toronto has done A LOT of work to ensure that they are as consistently competitive as they are. However, Toronto joined MLS in 2007. That is 10 years ago. 10 years that Toronto has been able to build up their Academy and Reserves teams. 10 years to learn how to discern good, enabling DP signings from bad, crippling DP signings. 10 years to match the right coach with the right front office and the right players. Soccer is at the same time one of the most simple sports and one of the most complex (to play professionally). Given enough time, luck, and resources coupled with a desire to get better and win at all costs you can create a Big Red Machine (bringing it full circle) like Toronto has that competes at a regular rate.
With a little bit more perspective, Sunday’s game doesn’t truly seem like a game lost to a much better team. Instead it shows that NYCFC, as a club, still has a ways to go before it achieves the ‘crown jewel’ status that it so desperately craves among the league’s teams. The fact that the Pigeons are this competitive in Year 3 speaks to the parity of MLS, but also how much the Club is learning and improving at a regular rate. Instead of riding Pirlo all season because he is Pirlo AND “SUBLIME PASSING” AND he is a DP, this year Viera sat him (he wasn’t hurt, he got benched) and the Boys in Blue started to find their rhythm. NYCFC maintain their position among the Easts best teams and live to fight another game.
NEXT UP: Derby match in the Hudson River Derby against the Red Bulls IN New York.