Toronto FC opens with a draw against Dallas, and confirmation of a work in progress

Toronto FC could have easily come out complaining following a 1-1 tie in Saturday’s season opener at FC Dallas.

The video assistant referee factored into two critical moments in the match: the opening goal by Dallas in the ninth minute, and a second-half penalty call against the home team, with both ultimately going against the Reds.

But the team focused inward post-match, the first chance this new-look roster has had to put together all the pieces it had been working on in the pre-season.

“We know that this process is still new, and day by day we’re going to get better,” said Toronto FC goal scorer Jonathan Osorio. “Today was a big step, a good step forward considering everything. This is not an easy place to play in, and with the way that the game went I thought we did really well.”

There are reasons why this team had been billed as a work in progress going into the season opener, and those were clear when the Reds released their lineup about an hour before kickoff. They started with just six players from last year’s roster, so the continuity wasn’t there. Coach Bob Bradley also started three teenagers in Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Deandre Kerr and Jayden Nelson, who all showed flashes of raw talent but will need time to develop.

And the squad is light on experienced fullbacks. Jacob Shaffelburg and Marshall-Rutty both made their debuts in the role, on the left and right respectively.

That’s where the Reds got into trouble on the Dallas goal.

It was American winger Paul Arriola whose field positioning was in question when the home side took the lead. Replays seemed to show he was offside when he received the ball on the left wing, but referee Jair Marrufo didn’t call the goal back after reviewing it pitchside.

Arriola went on to play a pinpoint curling ball on the ground across Toronto’s box, finding Jáder Obrian steps ahead of wingback Jacob Shaffelburg. Shaffelburg lost Obrian behind him at the back post, so when the Dallas man made his move he had the Reds fullback easily beaten.

Those moments will happen as Shaffelburg transitions into a role that’s more defensive than he’s used to. He got kudos from new Bradley for shaking it off. If he hadn’t, the Reds may not have found their equalizer.

Jonathan Osorio celebrates after scoring the first goal of Toronto FC’s season, with teammate Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty joining in, against FC Dallas on Saturday.

TFC started to settle in late in the first half, a response that pleased Bradley. And Shaffelburg orchestrated TFC’s tying goal in the 45th minute. His cross found striker Jesús Jiménez, who toe-poked the ball to Osorio at the back post. The Canadian made no mistake on a bouncing ball, getting his leg around enough to control it and put it in the back of an open net.

The Reds had the better part of the play, and the opportunities, from that point on.

None were better than when Marrufo blew his whistle in the 67th minute, after Dallas defender Jose Antonio Martinez had brought down Alejandro Pozuelo in the box. Marrufo overturned the call after VAR — though whatever was clearly and obviously legal about the challenge, the standard require to reverse the call on the field, wasn’t clear and obvious to everyone else watching.

After the match, Bradley hadn’t see a replay to comment on.

“The only thing I’ve heard about the penalty call is that he’s right there, he makes the call and that nobody that’s seen it tells me that it’s a clear and obvious mistake, so that doesn’t seem to be the proper use of VAR for me,” Bradley said.

It was a decisive moment, with neither side able to find a winner after that. Bradley noted there were some sloppy moments with the ball on a wet day at Toyota Stadium. But he also saw some sharp play. After just one game, he’ll take it.

“The feeling after the game is that it’s not our best, but it shows that we’re going in a good direction, so that part I’m satisfied.”


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