The undoubted highlight of Crystal Palace’s first pre-season friendly of 2016 was the individual display of debutant Andros Townsend, who played the opening 60 minutes of last night’s clash by the river in Philadelphia.
Whilst there will inevitably be plenty who pour scorn on the idea of taking a display in a friendly too seriously, it’s fair to suggest that Philadelphia were well motivated for the game, viewing it as the perfect opportunity to measure their progress after making an impressive start to the current MLS league season.
On a night when Wilfried Zaha began the game sat on the bench and Yannick Bolasie was absent from the first-team picture having been granted an extended period of leave following his summer exploits with DR Congo, Townsend started on the opposite flank to academy graduate Sullay Kaikai and looked absolutely outstanding for the most part.
For years, the Selhurst Park faithful have been used to seeing flicks and tricks dominate the play of our wide men, but in Townsend, we can look towards a shift in tactical approach, where direct runs are king. He may not have been fully up to speed when taking part in yesterday’s game, but all the telltale signs of a winger with a real end product reared their head.
In many ways, Townsend’s presence, coupled with his willingness to go for the jugular rather than indulge in endless showboating should bring about a greater focus from the likes of Zaha and Bolasie, who will be exposed to Townsend’s boundless energy and regularly well-directed crosses on a daily basis in training, laying the foundations for an adjustment in their own play if all things are well.
Our inability to break the deadlock at any point in Philadelphia shouldn’t see any blame laid at Andros’ feet, following a performance of genuine promise from him throughout. Take a look for yourself and I’m sure you’ll agree, Townsend will suit the Crystal Palace way of playing down to the ground.