The Fire wen’t up to Toronto and came back with a hard fought point. This is what we learned.
They’ve Figured Out the Defense
This may seem weird to say, considering that they gave up two goals, but you have to look at your opponents and how good they are.
The first one, Alejandro Pozuelo to Jozy Altidore, was a fantastic goal. Pozuelo service was picture perfect. It was the one time he was able to get a small bit of space and he didn’t waste it. He delivered it right to Jozy’s head. And for all the stick he gets, Jozy Altidore is the best American Striker since Josh Wolff. There’s no way he wasn’t putting that cross into the back of the net.
As for the second goal: I’ve always thought Jonathan Osorio was underrated and will score goals. The Fire were not the first to get scored on like this by Toronto, and they won’t be the last.
Other than the goals, Toronto was able to create some half chances, but the important players were largely kept in check. Jeremiah Gutjahr has been a revelation at left back. For a rookie who never played the position before, he’s taken to it like a duck to water. He’s incredibly smart and instinctual defender, and he’s had some real shining moments going forward, including the pass that lead to CJ Sapong’s goal just before half time.
The Bastian Schweinsteiger + Marcelo pairing has been fruitful. Marcelo is a no nonsense defender who hoofs the ball up the field to clear danger, while Basti likes to start the attack. They also complement each other’s strengths defensively. Basti is really good at reading passing lanes and disrupting them, while Marcelo likes to play the man instead of the ball.
And Johan Kappelhof, while probably still a better CB than RB, is still good. And they finally have a proper midfield destroyer in Mo Adams.
There are things to improve on together. The back line played too deep and was too static to counterattack effectively. But mostly, the defensive core has been identified. And it so much better than what they started the season with, and knock on wood everyone stays healthy, this might actually be a decent defense.
CJ Sapong Is A (Good) Problem
This was not supposed to be how CJ Sapong’s tenure with the Fire was supposed to be. Sapong was supposed to be the Alan Gordon type; come off the bench when late goals were needed and be a good substitute in case Niko got hurt or needed a day off.
Instead, he’s made himself an invaluable part of the lineup. He’s taken the proverbial brass ring and played so well that he must be on the pitch at all times. While Przemysław Frankowski was listed out with a groin injury on Saturday, there will be a time when Sapong, Katai, Niko, and Frankie are all healthy.
Veljko Paunovic will need to manage this situation carefully. He’ll need to balance the squad very carefully in order to get the maximum out of these four players. But one thing is clear: Sapong needs to play.
They Did Not Quit
In years past, after going down 1-0 after a half an hour against a team in as good a form as TFC were coming in, the Fire would have rolled over and died. They were under pressure from the opening whistle from a team in top form who just came of handing out 4-0 beating. Keeping them to two goals while scoring two themselves shows that this team has the heart to succeed this year.
What did you learn from the match? Let us know in the comments below!