Tottenham held on to beat Toronto F.C. and earn their first preseason victory with a late winner from Andros Townsend. The Spurs new manager Mauricio Pochettino, formerly of Southampton, should be happy with his new team’s performance. The starting eleven were especially impressive, going into the half-time interval with a 2-0 lead thanks to a brace from the Argentine Erik Lamela. The former Roma winger cost around £30 million, but only made nine appearances in the English Premier League, a disappointing start for his new club after scoring 15 goals in Serie A the previous season.
Both teams made lots of changes at halftime, with Tottenham substituting all of their field players and Toronto switching out seven men. The changes gave Toronto a chance to get back into the game. Andrew Wiedeman scored in the 65th minute to cut the deficit to one, and then Jordan Hamilton tied the game just eight minutes later. Andros Townsend then stepped up big time for the Spurs. Lewis Holtby supplied the Englishman with a great assist on the break, allowing Townsend to beat his defender with a quick cut back to his right foot at the top of the box, and fired a beautiful strike into the top corner of the net to give Tottenham the late winner over Toronto 3-2.
The Spurs had played their first preseason game on July 19, tying the MLS leading Seattle Sounders 3-3. Mauricio Pochettino clearly has no lack of offensive talent at his disposal at the moment, scoring six goals in two games, but he does have a defense that has let in five in that same time period. Two of the Spurs main defenders still have not fully come back to the first team. Jan Vertonghen has yet to return from his World Cup campaign, and Kyle Walker just returned from a long-term injury for the first time as a sub against Toronto.
The new signing of former Swansea left-back Ben Davies should help shore up the defense. Davies had a great first half, showing his understanding of Pochettino’s physically demanding pressing game. At 21-years-old, he is not the finished product, but he is a significant upgrade on the unreliable Danny Rose.
Lamela’s two goals, and more importantly overall play, were definitely the highlight of the night for Tottenham. The front four for the Spurs was Lennon, Lamela, Eriksen and Soldado up top. The three central attacking midfielders moved well together, creating space, overlapping runs, and quick vertical passes that tore through the Toronto defense. Soldado did well too, earning assists on Lamela’s goals.
Lamela began centrally as a number 10, but often drifted out wide to draw the defense out of position and create lanes for his teammates to exploit. He distributed possession well, and dropped back in the area between the opposition’s defense and midfield to offer an extra attacking option. His defensive skills were also on show when he gained back possession twice in Toronto’s half of the field. Overall, it was an excellent performance from the Argentine and his fellow compatriot, and manager Pochettin, will want him to carry this form into the upcoming English Premier League season.
Pochettino will be excited to have his full team at his disposal in his next match against the Chicago Fire on July 27. It will be their last of their North American tour. The Spurs will then head back to Europe to play Scottish champions Celtic in Helsinki, Finland on August 2, and then finally rounding out their preseason against the German side Schalke in White Hart Lane on August 9. Tottenham will look to continue their winning ways in those three matches by building off their late 3-2 winner to beat Toronto.
Commentary by B. Taylor Rash