By Jerry Mancini at BMO Field.
Around 90 minutes prior to kick-off, Achara was informed by Greg Vanney that he would start in place of Tsubasa Endoh after the midfielder picked up an injury in training on Friday.
In his first career start, the rookie didn’t disappoint as he showed great technique and opened up the field for his teammates.
“Tonight, he was fantastic,” Vanney said after the game. “He’s been fantastic since the day he arrived in pre-season in L.A.
“From the day he arrived he’s shown that he fits in, that he’s talented, that he’s a smart player, he can adapt within the game, can read plays, and can play on the move as we saw tonight.
“He’s got soft feet even when he’s playing on the run. And he’s got a nose for goal. He scored twice tonight really.”
Early in the game, Jonathan Osorio showed great skill to work his way through several NYCFC players and found Achara down the left. The Nigerian made no mistake and scored what he thought was his first goal for TFC. But the goal was ruled offside, with referee Ted Unkel going to the pitchside monitor to make the final decision.
Toronto continued to pile on the pressure and the visitors were outshot 17-11 — 9-3 when it came to shots on target. City goalkeeper Sean Johnson had an outstanding game, making several key saves and keeping his side in the match until the 81st minute.
But Johnson was left stranded when Richie Laryea’s cross deflected off Ronald Matarrita towards the top left corner of the goal. Achara was on hand to head home, making sure the ball found the back of the net.
A dream debut and an incredible team performance. The support from the fans and the energy around the stadium was second to none. We still have a lot to work on but most importantly we got all 3 points.💪🏾 THEY SAW RED!! 😤 https://t.co/mbWMusfwRG
— Ifunanyachi Achara (@AcharaIfy10) March 8, 2020
The Nigerian is versatile, able to play in central attacking positions, in midfield, as well as on the wing. Vanney elected to use him on the left of midfield in his 4-4-2 formation. He showed great skill as he used his speed to beat players out wide and created opportunities for teammates. His ability to come back and help the defence was also key.
“He’s an attacking player,” confirmed Vanney. “I like him on the wings because I think he could beat you on the outside and inside.
“He has great timing with his runs, even from the outside he gets himself to the back post and gets himself into goal-scoring positions, which is not the case for all wingers, but he’s able to play as a nine or under a nine. We used him in those roles in training sometimes.
“He has great instincts for the game and is a good attacking player and could play in any of the positions very well.”
It was a great effort from Toronto who rebounded well from their disappointing draw against San Jose Earthquakes in the season opener, which they feel they should have won.
TFC will now look towards their second home game next Saturday against Nashville, where Achara will be hoping to retain his place in the team even once other players are back to full fitness. Displays like this make him difficult to drop, and he has at least provided Vanney with another attacking option, and a versatile one at that.