MLS Cup Real Salt Lake Sporting Kansas City Tactical Analysis

Toronto FC hosted D.C. United as a midweek game on Thursday. The two teams have had many encounters before, 28 precisely. Those games have seen ten wins for Toronto and thirteen victories for United. Ending in a draw just five times.

The two teams are at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Nevertheless, Toronto tried to move up a little bit with a win in the last round, but this draw against United did not do good for either side.

On the other hand, for United, after losing against Seattle, they started well against Toronto. They took a 3-0 lead in the first half. Let’s see what happened.

1. Pressing

Toronto chose to press in a man-oriented manner, which contains man marking and use of cover shadow. United’s centre-backs were positioned far from each other during the build-up. Thus Giovinco, Toronto’s striker, stepped between them in order to block the switching option between the centre-backs. He used cover shadow and the other Toronto players marked United’s fullbacks and the deepest midfielder tightly.

Since Toronto worked effectively, the guests struggled to beat the press and reach the opponent’s box. They tried with two methods to bypass this pressing scheme. In some situations, Acosta dropped deep to help the build-up. He showed quite a resistance to the pressure due to his skills, therefore, this could be a good solution. Unfortunately, United did not use this too often.

The other way that they bypassed this was by directly passing towards the forwards. However, these passes were airborne and lacked precision, therefore it was not consistent enough to rely on.

Since the guests did not find a solution to beat the opponent’s pressing they had to rely on their counter-attacks, which led to some dangerous situations and even some goals.

DC United also chose the man marking scheme during the pressing phase. As you see below, almost the same setup as Toronto did, however, the home side found ways to bypass the pressing. With a dropping player, who immediately lays it off towards the other side of the field. Then Toronto could progress up the field on the right flank. This was a common pattern that Toronto find a free man in the right flank, therefore they often used that flank to progress.

2. The wings can be useful

In general, the wings were useful for the home side due to the United’s narrow shape in defence. Toronto favoured using their fullbacks high up the pitch in the attacking phase. They stay fairly high and wide, thus they provided a great contribution for attacking, especially van Der Wiel in the second half.

Here is a case, where Toronto progressed up in the left wing, using passing lanes. Then there was a wrong decision from Fisher because he chose to move infield where a team-mate already tracking the ball carrier. Due to Fisher’s movement, the flank was free and the Toronto could reach the final third.

You can see below the guests base shape during defending. They formed a 4-4-2 or sometimes a 4-5-1. They limit their form in the central area in order to close down the passing lanes and also limit the available space. Thus they left the wings open.

Another interesting detail that you can spot, was the position of the Toronto defenders. During the positional play at the opponent’s half, the far side fullback moved infield to help to cover the area in order to prevent counter-attacks.

3. Does that space needs to be covered?

Two Toronto goals came from huge defensive mistakes. Both of them were very similar. The guests had an issue when cover the penalty spot in the box. In both situations, United’s defenders were deeper and the midfielders did not drop back enough or in time to prevent the crosses there. Thus there was a quite big gap between the two lines.


However, there was also wrong positioning in other situations. Toronto also used volleys to bypass the opponent’s pressing, but thanks to the space that United left it was much more dangerous. It allowed the Toronto to pick up the second ball and continue the attack.

Final Thoughts

Those who chose to watch this game must have really enjoyed it. It was a great and exciting game with some turning points in it. For the future, DC United will have to improve most in the defensive phase. A team with a 3-0 lead can’t be losing points at the end of the day. They gave a chance to the home side to make a huge comeback. Those mistakes before the Toronto’s first and second goal were unacceptable. Leaving big space in the box will always be punished. United have to work on that too.