Toronto FC: 3 reasons to abandon the back three

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse
Toronto FC, Greg Vanney

FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – May 12: Greg Vanney, head coach of Toronto FC on the sideline during the New England Revolution Vs Toronto FC regular season MLS game at Gillette Stadium on May 12, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Toronto FC have conceded 25 goals in 15 games this season. Is it time for Greg Vanney to abandon the back three? Here are three reasons why it might be so.

Toronto FC’s ineptitude in the defensive third has become a major talking point among Reds supporters this season. Greg Vanney has started eight out of 15 MLS matches with a back three this season but may lack the resources required to persist with his preferred approach. Although well-regarded in some quarters, left center-back Chris Mavinga has been prone to positional indiscipline. Veteran Drew Moor has slowed down considerably this year, causing him to make rash challenges in Toronto’s 18-yard box, and it is unclear whether Eriq Zavaleta or Laurent Ciman can excel at right center-back in the long-run.

To their credit, upper management have addressed the squad’s dearth of quality center-backs by bringing MLS legend Omar Gonzalez into the fold. Nevertheless, remedying this team’s defensive shortcomings may necessitate adjustments on Vanney’s behalf as well.

As such, here are three reasons why TFC should move on from the back-three.

VANCOUVER, BC – MAY 31: Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder/forward Yordy Reyna (29) is tackled by Toronto FC defender Drew Moor (3) leading to a penalty shot during their match at BC Place on May 31, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

3. Addition by subtraction

Systems incorporating three center-backs are often associated with defensive stability. The added central defender is, in theory, meant to provide a more stable foundation for the team, the numerical advantage especially protective against the counter-attack. However, solidity at the back is compromised when the players are simply not up to the task

Drew Moor in particular has been awful in recent weeks. The 35-year-old has failed to track runners in the box, been burned repeatedly by his lack of pace, and has needlessly conceded penalty kicks by making silly challenges. His age is taking its toll.

Moor will not suddenly morph into Leonardo Bonucci (the pre-Milan version, though Bonucci on current form would still be a tremendous upgrade) by playing in between Gonzalez and Mavinga. His play simply does not warrant a spot in Toronto FC’s starting XI. Thus, Vanney ought to consider pairing Gonzalez with Mavinga in central defense going forward.

Use your ← → (arrows) to browse