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Toronto FC coach Vanney still seething over the way Chicago treated Alejandro Pozuelo, wants MLS to get its act together


SEATTLE — Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney was not a happy camper following last week’s 2-2 draw against the Chicago Fire — and not just because his club failed to pick up three points in a match it largely dominated.

Vanney was quietly seething about the way the Fire — and defender Mo Adams in particular — abused Toronto’s new midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo. Vanney called the match a “hack-fest.”

Said Pozuelo after the game: “They come only here for defend and kicking and not football. I think this is not football.”

The normally reserved Vanney told the Toronto Sun on Friday that it’s not only bad for skilled international players like Pozuelo to be shadowed in such a matter, it’s especially bad for Major League Soccer, a league that is constantly striving to improve its image on the world stage and attract more quality players in their prime.

“We’re a physical league (but) I think the last game was borderline ridiculous. In particular, some of the interactions between one of their players and Alejandro crossed the line,” Vanney said prior to his club training at Starfire Sports, the Seattle Sounders’ practice facility, on Friday afternoon. “I can’t believe (Adams) got through the game without a yellow, much less a red. So I think it’s incumbent upon the officiating crew and everybody else to not allow our games and our league to become this physical hack-fest.”

Vanney made the comments when he was asked if he expects the dynamic Pozuelo to face the same treatment on Saturday when the Sounders host TFC at CenturyLink Field. He doesn’t, but last Saturday’s match clearly still bothers him and Vanney said as much when he had his weekly discussion with Howard Webb and officials with Major League Soccer’s Professional Referee Organization.

Vanney said MLS still suffers from the perception that it’s an overly physical league, that MLS is more about physicality than skill. And that’s not the perception the league wants, said the TFC coach.

“I think we’re trying to find the right balance of being serious of what our league looks like in the world and what constitutes a foul and a yellow card,” Vanney said. “We have to find a better balance as to where the world’s game is at (compared to the MLS) and not let our league be a borderline hockey/soccer game. We have to get a more consistent standard that maybe matches what the world standard is. I think we need to find a more common ground because guys like Pozuelo, guys who come from international leagues, are expecting an international standard and sometimes I think our league gets a little bit over towards allowing things to physically just happen too much.”

Vanney stressed that when he talked to Webb and the people at PRO, he wasn’t just whining about his team and the Chicago game.

“I tried to stay as neutral as I can and not just make it about my team or players. I try to make it about the league in general,” he said. “I’ve been in this league since Day 1 and we’ve talked a lot about the league taking steps forward and trying to be seen on the world stage as one of the best leagues in the world.

“When we play in CONCACAF (Champions League), a lot of things you can get away with in MLS, you can’t get away with in CONCACAF. Same thing if you play in international leagues. Some things you can get away in MLS you can’t get away with in international soccer. So I think we have to find that balance in that. And that’s a little bit of what Alejandro’s frustration was.”

Vanney doesn’t expect the same type of hack-fest game against the Sounders on Saturday.

“They’re at home, I think they’ll try to be more aggressive in the attack,” Vanney said. “Last year they came to our place and they were very, very deep and defended deep and just played for the counter. I don’t think they’re going to do that in their place. So I think spaces will open up. Obviously, they’ll be aware of (Pozuelo), they’ll be aware of Michael (Bradley), they’ll be aware of Jozy (Altidore), but I don’t necessarily think that they’re a team that tends to put a lot of energy into that individual match up, so to speak. I think they’ll do more of a collective, ‘by committee’ approach (to defending).”

Saturday’s match features intense MLS Cup rivals and both are undefeated in MLS play this season. The Sounders, 4-0-1, defeated TFC, 3-0-1, in the 2016 championship final while the Reds got its revenge by beating Seattle for the title in 2017.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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