Toronto FC hosted their first home match of the MLS season on Friday, but settled for a scoreless draw to Sporting Kansas City.
Here are the top takeaways from the match:
Dan HamiltonDan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Graham Zusi continues to improve as a right back, but there's more work to do
Zusi often looked comfortable for Sporting Kansas City on Friday, pushing high up the field to help the attack while tracking back. But Toronto seemed intent to attack down his side of the pitch, and he showed a couple of the lapses in tracking runners that we've seen when he's been asked to play right back for the USMNT. Zusi seems to have the right attributes in the right back role, but he is still growing into it and other teams know it.
Still, SKC coach Peter Vermes will be pleased with his progress as came out of the match have done what he needed to do. And while Zusi isn't going to become the USMNT's first-choice starting right back anytime soon, he did show he could stand up to the test vs. Panama earlier this week to be a depth option. That all started in Kansas City and Zusi continues to make good progress there.
Peter AikenPeter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto FC missed Jozy Altidore as an outlet early
When a team plays as many long balls as Toronto FC does, it's a good guess that not starting a player like Altidore would hurt – and that's what happened on Friday. They needed someone who could hold the ball up and combine, but Tosaint Ricketts – Altidore's replacement – isn't that kind of player. TFC still found the chances they needed to put the game away, with Jonathan Osorio having the most frustrating misses on the day, but TFC needed a true finisher, which they lacked without Altidore.
When Altidore came on in the 62nd minute, Toronto's attack instantly looked more dangerous. In the 72nd minute, Altidore created a nice combination with Victor Vazquez that resulted in a chance that Sporting Kansas City ultimate defended well. It felt like Toronto might find a late game-winner, but it never came.
Geoff BurkeGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
But Toronto is being smart about trying to prevent injury for Altidore
While Altidore isn't replaceable, this early in the season, TFC can afford to not start him if it means keeping him healthy. Altidore missed 10 games last year – almost a third of the MLS season – and Toronto struggled a bit without him, particularly at getting the most out of Sebastian Giovinco. Altidore, who just started back-to-back matches for the USMNT during the international break, has a history of hamstring injuries and it was smart to rest Altidore and ease him back in.
Kansas City zeroed in on Sebastian Giovinco and it mostly worked
When Giovinco got the ball, he was unsurprisingly good at moving the ball up the field and connecting his passes. The problem was he barely got the ball and he was forced to drop pretty deep to get it. That is part of the problem of not having Altidore, whose hold-up play allows a player like Giovinco to get on the ball more.
The match opened up more in the second half and Giovinco started to find openings to get involved higher up the field, which quickly made Toronto more threatening. The Italian nearly scored early in the second half with a lovely dipping free kick that ricocheted off the crossbar. Ultimately, it was too little, too late.
Clint Irwin's injury is a tough break, but Alexander Bono filled in well
The moment Irwin grabbed his left leg, it was clear he wouldn't be able to continue in goal. While we await word on how long Irwin will be out, Toronto FC can breathe easy after Bono's performance. The back-up goalkeeper stepped in and made three saves, including a couple of big ones. In the 70th minute, in particular, he reacted quickly to parry away a blistering Soony Saad effort.
Sporting Kansas City's attack still isn't clicking
SKC have two goals this season, but one came from a shockingly bad mistake from goalkeeper David Bingham and one came from a wonder-goal by Benny Feilhaber. In other words, they haven't generated much sustainable attack and that continued on Friday. Although they were missing Feilhaber due to a hamstring injury and his ability to help the team in transition, striker Dom Dwyer just often looked disjointed from the midfield.
SKC took their share of shots, but most were very optimistic efforts from outside the 18-yard-box. Real dangerous chances were far fewer Sporting Kansas City and they need to figure that out soon.