Toronto FC picked up a valuable win on Saturday night beating Nashville SC 2-1 at BMO Field.
Jacob Shaffelburg scored the opener in the 18th minute, latching onto an Auro Jr ball behind the Nashville back-line before calmly rounding the goalkeeper and depositing the ball into the open net with his wrong foot.
The visitors pulled level in the 74th minute when substitute Randall Leal played CJ Sapong in, but TFC found another gear and the game-winner five minutes later courtesy a flying boot from Omar Gonzalez touching in a lovely free-kick delivery from Yeferson Soteldo.
After a tough month-and-a-half in the midst of a difficult season it was a well needed and well deserved victory.
“It's been a very, very tough year for us. We can see how the team clicked and is making a huge effort,” said Javier Perez, echoing the comments he made in the locker room. “I'm very, very happy for them. We have a lot of players injured, we didn't have any DPs to start the game tonight, but the players we had on the field... we had 11 warriors.”
“And we were behind them, supporting them in whatever way we could,” he continued. “They had a terrific performance against one of the hottest teams in the league. It's the first game we’ve won here, in BMO Field, this year and it's an important milestone for us, especially heading into the cup game.”
Having played the first half of the season in Orlando, TFC went unbeaten through their first four matches at BMO Field, drawing each, but after losses by the thinnest of margins to the New England Revolution and Inter Miami CF, they were forced to wait until last night to collect a full three points at home.
“I can't stress enough how big this win was for us,” smiled Omar Gonzalez. “We've been losing and it may seem like everything's going wrong, but man, I’ll tell you what, day-in and day-out, guys are putting in the work, guys are coming into the training ground and have been pushing this whole year.”
“Of course things haven't gone our way, but we still show up every single day to work hard, to push for those three points, to bring the energy,” he continued. “And so to finally get a win at home, here at BMO, it's beyond words.”
“It's been a really, really crazy year and so we get these three points and now we savour it, we live in it for tonight, for tomorrow even, and then it's time for all of us to focus on the next three points and the next win and how we're going to do that,” Gonzalez added. “It's something that we need to build off of.”
The joy at the game-winner and after the final whistle was evident, but in the locker room it took on a different posture.
“Everyone's just kind of quiet,” noted Shaffelburg. “But it was like that quiet of taking a deep breath – we got a win, so we can work off that type thing. Certainly everybody's super excited about the win and ready to go to the next one on Wednesday.”
Shaffelburg, who started after impressing as an early substitute in Tuesday’s match, continued his good run of form. Denied a goal against Miami, he left no doubt as to whether this one had crossed the goal-line.
“It was a class goal,” levelled Perez. “An excellent run in behind – he knows how to do that very well, his timing is excellent – and then the way he controls the ball and the finish, by the way, with his right foot, which is not his strongest foot.”
“The finish was excellent,” he added. “It's a class performance again for him in a second consecutive game.”
Though a clean-sheet proved elusive, when tasked with finding another TFC responded.
“The team tonight showed character,” pinpointed Perez. “This is a team that is ready to fight, a team that is going to give everything to the end. It would be very easy at that point just to give up, but it's not in the nature of this team.”
Minutes later, just as the Viking Clap was reaching its crescendo, Soteldo floated a sweet free-kick from deep on the right to the back-post and Gonzalez went crashing in.
“It’s remarkable,” said Perez of Gonzalez’s ability to get on the end of set-pieces. “It's a tremendous effort on the side of Omar, but as well a very good delivery. It’s a goal for the whole team. You can see how they are celebrating when Omar scores: it's almost like you are winning a title; you can see how much that means for the team, how much it means for everybody at the club.”
“This club is resilient, the players are resilient,” he highlighted. “We are going to come back stronger with this win.”
The win ends a run of nine without.
“When you go for so long without a win, it's not easy to keep working,” said Perez. “The players never stop working, they never stop believing.”
“It's a big weight off the shoulders and hopefully from now on we can start playing a little bit more free and get the results that we deserve,” he continued. “The team is working really hard, is training really well, and now it's time to get rewarded on the field.”
As always the most important game now is the next one.
Toronto will welcome York United FC to BMO Field on Wednesday for a quarterfinal clash. It will be the first-ever meeting between the local rivals. A proper derby will be born, though a name for it has not yet emerged.
“This is something that's been spoken about inside the club and inside our locker room, how important the Canadian Championship is to us,” levelled Gonzalez. “And so for this win to come right before the opening game of the Canadian Championship is huge.”
“Guys were smiling tonight for the first time in a long time after coming in from a game,” he continued. “That felt great. Now it's about repeating that and so we go again on Wednesday night. This is big for us, we're going to build off of this, come into training focused, ready to go, show our opponent respect and bring the same energy that we brought tonight.”