What we learned vs. Toronto FC
It goes without saying that this was a very important victory for our ‘Caps. It was our home opener against our Canadian rivals Toronto FC, who had a number of players that were signed just before the game. It was a game we should have won and the boys got the job done.
So what did we learn?
Solid defence will lead the way again
We all know what we did last year as we set the record for longest start to an MLS season without conceding a goal. We’re off to a good start again this year with a shutout on Saturday.
Martin Rennie wants his team to be hard to beat and – like last year – the ‘Caps showed a collective willingness to defend as a team. Joe Cannon was his usual dominant self and the back four – even after losing captain Jay Demerit early on – limited Toronto FC to very few dangerous chances.
It was also great to see the defensive midfielders shielding the back four all game long and Kenny Miller leading by example in working hard to track back late in the game.
It really was a team effort, and we’ll need more of that to keep this momentum going.
Once the nerves settled, the attack came to life
I mentioned in my keys to the game that we needed to start and maintain a high tempo. In the first half we did not do that and I put that down to some nervous energy.
We weren’t quite able to come out flying and pressure Toronto as we’d hoped, which allowed them good possession early on. Because this did not happen for us, we were not as sharp with our passes or first touch. That made for a stop-and-start first half with not many good chances for either team.
In the second half the ‘Caps were a lot more relaxed and showed the kind of exciting soccer that they displayed in the preseason with our up-tempo game in full flow. This made for a very entertaining second half with our men in white keeping the pedal to the metal as they wore down a tired TFC side.
Nigel Reo-Coker looked the part
Speaking of changing the tempo in the second half …
It would not be accurate to say that one player changed the way we played, but Nigel really made a big difference. He was like a conductor in an orchestra as he sprayed the ball around and brought calm to the proceedings. Nigel has said in his interviews that he is a natural born leader, and he showed this in his second-half performance.
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