TFC fans have been down in the dumps for the last few months. We missed the playoffs, then we lost Victor Vazquez and Seba Giovinco to nice, fat, tax-free paychecks in the middle east. After that we had to cut ties with Gregory van der Wiel when a training camp bust-up with Vanney saw him sent home from California during pre-season training, and the off-season signings were functional and workmanlike rather than inspiring. Bill Manning and new GM Ali Curtis definitely had to pull a rabbit out of the hat somewhere as the season had not started and it already looked like it was falling apart.
We were told that the club had a plan to address the unexpected departures of VV and Seba, and the rumour mill got into full swing with suggestions that the overall plan was to ‘go cheap’ in terms of DPs and to get rid of the existing high earners. Bill Manning rode the storm at a supporters meeting and although he admitted he may not have an unlimited budget, he wasnt about to ‘go cheap’. It had already emerged that one of the targets was Spanish midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo who had been plying his trade in Belgium for Genk. TFC had met his release clause value but the club wanted to keep him to the end of the Belgian season. TFC stayed focused on him and eventually agreed to wait until the Belgian season wrapped up in late March before getting their man. They also – somewhat unexpectedly – announced that Jozy had signed a new three-year deal. Many had expected to see Jozy made available to other sides but after (hopefully) putting last season’s injuries behind him, the popular striker looked fit and ready for action. All that remained to be seen was how the team and Pozuelo would link up … Could the wait be worth it? Could he begin to replace either VV or Seba ?
We didnt have to wait long! The article title may give it away, but from the very first minute of the game it was clear that the front office had done their homework and that waiting for Pozuelo was a great move. He seemed to link up easily with Jozy, with Oso, with Bradley, with everyone. He oozed quality every time he touched the ball and – much like Seba and VV had done – he put the ball in spaces where good players, players who could read the game, would position themselves … and in this case, they often found their mark. If his debut form continues, then TFC may well have stuck gold with ‘Pozo’.
TFC had the ball in the net twice before the first goal was awarded and numerous close chances peppered either side of them …. In 7 minutes Pozuelo threaded a ball through to Jozy who had his shot saved by Sean Johnson. Then followed two ‘goals’ that were chalked off, both for offside. First it was Justin Morrow in 9 minutes then Pozuelo himself scored shortly after. Whilst the first went to VAR, the second was less controversial. The breakthrough came in 29 minutes. A move that spanned the entire pitch and was a real team-effort. A headed clearance from Mavinga in the penalty area found DeLeon and then Auro who passed to Bradley. Bradley laid it off to Pozuelo near halfway who played a nice pass to Osorio. Osorio made some ground then passed back to Pozuelo who saw the opportunity to play a defence splitting pass back to Oso. Osorio gave him the ball back in a neat 1-2 and Pozuelo headed for the penalty area and played it across the box to a waiting Altidore who had – for him – a simple tap-in. Given the two chances already chalked off, and that this looked like a close call too, with NYC claiming for offside, there was only a muted celebration as the Reds and the supporters waited to see if referee Chris Penso would make his own hat-trick. Only when the restart happened could everyone relax and enjoy the goal.
This kind of neat passing was a feature of the night. They didnt always end in goals, but it sure looked and felt good. TFC were passing the ball around with ease and Pozuelo was showing lots of class. There’s an old cliche in football about ‘covering every blade of grass’ but thats what he seemed to do. If you look at the gallery, you will see him photobombing lots of pictures from all over the pitch. He was at the heart of most offensive moves and also tracked back well. While Jozy and Pozo will undoubtedly get the plaudits, one player who may have gone somewhat unheralded since the start of the season is Michael Bradley. He is in a contract year and has said he wants to keep things private but he is certainly letting his feet do the talking on the pitch. Whether its the hurt from last year, or the incentive of making sure he gets a good contract – or a bit of both – he has gone about his business solidly and with a laser focused determination since the start of the season. He has been the beating heart of this team since he arrived and his two goals already this season are his first since 2016.
Despite lots of great passing play and a clear domination of the opposition, TFC could not translate that into goals and the first half ended 1-0. The second half however would see a few more goals. In 58 minutes, after more magic from the reds, Jozy was upended in the box. Referee Penso was not keen to give anything but after video review he finally awarded a penalty. A confident looking Pozuelo stepped up ready to take it and what he did was outrageous in a good way ! In post match interviews he has mentioned that he had said if he got to take one he would ‘do a panenka’ and that’s exactly what he did. If it works, it looks great, but if it doesnt, you look foolish – just ask Canadian international Simeon Jackson who fluffed his one in the Scottish Premiership last week (see here) and was widely ridiculed !
If the Panenka was good, he surpassed it 20 minutes later and blew the collective minds of the crowd (and Jozy) with a sweet chip that would have had Newton re-thinking the theory of gravity. With Johnson on the correct side of the goal he chipped up (way up) and over the keeper and into the net for his second and Toronto’s third. He didnt have his chance to grab a hat-trick as he was subbed a minute later for Jay Chapman, but perhaps his magic rubbed off as it took Chapman only six minutes to get on the scoresheet himself with a nice goal setup by Auro Jr.
Considering that Pozuelo has only had a few days of training it must scare coaches in the rest of MLS about what he may be able to do once he has had a chance to gel more fully with his new team-mates. For TFC fans, I have a feeling its the start of another beautiful friendship ….
Videos & Gallery from the game :
Jozy’s Goal: 1-0
Pozuelo’s penalty : 2-0
Pozuelo’s Chip : 3-0
Chapman’s goal : 4-0
The Pozuelo Show !
Full Match Highlights
Pozuelo leads the viking clap (as seen from 113)
Gallery for this game can be found here : https://viewfromthesouthstands.com/gallery/2019-gallery/collections/72157677510990477/