Technique, as the ninth commandment of Cruyff says, is the base. It is a simple concept in appearance only that will perhaps filter through to the United States as well after the latest MLS Cup final. The Sounders won, taking just three shot and never on goal, after an extremely passive match. In the end, the Toronto players were left with their proactive game plan in their hands as they watched the opponent celebrate.

And to think that the asymmetrical 3-5-2 that Greg Vanney designed was very aggressive and compact, with the defence playing close to the midfield, looking for the early counter-attack, and the midfielders tightening up the space in the ball area to try and win it back as quickly as possible. In the phases with ball possession, Osorio moved up through the lines, joining either Giovinco or Altidore in order to gain the upper hand behind Seattle’s double pivot, while either Beitashour or Morrow were always deep and wide to provide breadth.

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This plan consistently allowed Toronto to dominate the match on the opponent’s midfield, but without being dangerous with the same consistency. Take the two strikers, Giovinco and Altidore, who intelligently tried to disrupt the opposing team’s defence with “Italian style” moves, with the former usually looking for the depth created by the movement of the latter coming towards him.

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Although they were able to move the rival defenders, rarely were the two able to get to the goal using this method. In fact, Altidore and Giovinco were almost never able to coordinate due to (often banal) technical errors, highlighting the Italian’s isolationist tendencies. In the example below, Altidore’s bad control undermines the correct movement made by Giovinco, who had attacked the space behind Torres.

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We often hear that MLS lacks the tactical principles to bridge the gap between the European championships. But technique, as we said at the beginning, is the base.

Dario Saltari

Dario Saltari was born in 1989 and he holds a university degree in International Relations. He writes for L’Ultimo Uomo