Toronto FC had all the shots they needed – setting a team record with a total of 35 on the night. What they didn’t have was much finish.
Perhaps that was because star striker Jozy Altidore was a surprise scratch from the game (a heel injury flared up), and there is too much of a drop-off from him to the rest of the forwards. In any event, the Reds had 20 total shots in the first half, another 15 in the second, but were frustrated by D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Thanks to the heroics of Hamid, who stopped all 13 on-target shots, the Reds had to settle for a 0-0 draw, but they did manage to break a two-game losing streak to raise their Major League Soccer record to 5-4-2.
The 35 shots were the most taken by an MLS team in one game without scoring a goal. The league record for total shots in a game is 38. The Reds also set a team record for most total shots in one half with 20 in the first 45 minutes, seven of them on-target. The previous record was 17, set July 28, 2018 in the second half against the Chicago Fire.
On the other side of the game, the Reds were near-perfect defensively with a clean sheet of their own. Aside from allowing a shot in the first 20 seconds of the game, TFC controlled the United counterattack all night, something head coach Greg Vanney had stressed in training all week.
But the lack of finish on offence took the shine off a dominating performance.
“This is as dominating a performance as there has been, but we don’t have the goal to show for it,” Vanney said. “The only frustration in that room right now is that we didn’t get the goal to show for it and the three points.
“But I think everybody is proud of the effort and the work. I asked them to come out tonight and go for the game from the beginning because I thought we were very slow in getting started in the last home game and the home games before that. I thought they had their foot on the gas from minute one to the last minute.”
Vanney did not want to admit the absence of Altidore robbed TFC of its scoring power. But he did not argue the point, either, with his answer a reminder that the off-season departures of Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez were devastating to the Reds’ offence.
“I think we need more [scoring power],” Vanney said. “That’s been evident for a while. That’s something we have to consider. Yeah, we have to work on that.”
TFC captain Michael Bradley, who led the defensive effort, argued that similar efforts will bring rewards.
“Obviously [it’s] frustrating not being able to make a play and get a goal,” Bradley said. “We said it amongst ourselves afterwards, Greg [Vanney] said it: If we continue to play like that, if we continue to play with that mentality, if we continue to play with that aggression we’re going to be in a good spot.”
The Reds were relentless after surrendering an early scoring chance to D.C.
D.C. was content to play the way most visiting teams do at BMO Field, laying back and looking for the counterattack. Since defending in transition was what TFC worked on all week, they were in good form for the first half.
Then again, D.C. head coach Ben Olsen elected not to start his three offensive stars Wayne Rooney, Paul Arriola and Luciano Acosta. They were rested as United has several games close together in the near future. Rooney was the first to get into the game, drawing a big cheer from the announced crowd of 26,116 when he made his first appearance at BMO in the 47th minute, replacing Quincy Amarikwa.
His presence didn’t change the flow of the game, as TFC midfielder Marky Delgado forced Hamid to make yet another big save on a hard shot from just outside the box. That followed an equally nice save in the 46th minute on a tough shot by TFC defender Auro Jr.
“I was very happy with the clean sheet, especially our ability to protect ourselves from the transition and the counterattack and to still be able to dominate the game like that was an important message for ourselves,” Vanney said.
But the closest the Reds came to scoring was in the first half when forward Jordan Hamilton hit the crossbar in the 33rd minute during a siege of the United goal.