Toronto FC advanced to the semifinals of the Canadian Championship on Wednesday night with a 4-0 victory over York United FC at BMO Field.
Jonathan Osorio opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a strong header off a Jacob Shaffelburg cross. Ifunanyachi Achara added a second before half-time redirecting a ball in from the left with Shaffelburg again playing provider.
Yeferson Soteldo made it three from the penalty spot in the 84th minute after Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty was brought down in the area and Noble Okello added the fourth five minutes later, latching onto a Michael Bradley through-ball and slotting past Nathan Ingham in the York net.
TFC will meet Pacific FC, who defeated Cavalry FC late last night, in the next round.
“It was a solid performance,” said Javier Perez post-match. “We needed this. Everybody was engaged. We knew from the beginning that we needed to match their intensity, needed to match their level of effort, and get the result.”
“It looks like it's an easy game but it's not; it's far from that,” he added. “All the credit to the players, they wanted badly to go to the next round.”
After an early push by TFC, York found their footing in the match, going toe-to-toe with the MLS side through the opening half-hour.
“We started on the front foot,” analyzed Osorio. “Our plan was to get a goal early, much earlier than we actually got, but we did a good job to stay with it, not panicking or anything.”
“When 15, 20 minutes goes by, it's easy for the other team to gain confidence and get themselves in the game, but we stuck with it,” he continued. “After we got the first goal, we knew that spaces would open up and that's what happened. We took advantage of those chances, then we did a good job of closing out in the second half.”
The first goal in a match like this was always going to be important.
Having not been able to pull the trigger on a handful of half-chances, Toronto found the breakthrough via a wonderful team goal. Bradley played to Richie Laryea on the left, he cut the ball to Shaffelburg on a curling run down the right-side of the box to deliver an inviting ball to Osorio.
“I knew Shaff is very good in the one-v-one and he always puts in a good ball, so I tried to put myself in a space that was difficult for the defense,” recalled Osorio. “Shaff put in a good ball – a great ball, a perfect ball – and I got the jump and redirected it into the net.”
“It was a good goal by the team, great by Shaff, made it really easy for me, and it was good to get that first goal. It was important with the way the game was going,” he continued. “Time had been passing and we did want the early goal.”
Having scored and been denied a goal in his last two league outings, Shaffelburg picked up a second assist of the night when he teed up Achara for Toronto’s second.
“This season he has matured a lot,” said Perez of Shaffelburg’s form. “He has been putting consistent, good performances, one game after the next, and tonight is the first time that he gives two assists in one game.”
“He was a threat from the first minute, creating a lot of one-v-one situations, putting in crosses. The assist to Achara is an excellent cross. The other one was a really good cross as well,” he noted. “I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in the next matches.”
With Marshall-Rutty winning the penalty kick and Okello adding the fourth, it was a good night for young Canadians all around.
“It's very positive for our team, for the club, seeing those young players being productive in a game like this,” said Osorio. “This is what we want from them and this is what we need them to do moving forward, each game taking it as an opportunity to show that they need to be on the field.”
“Jacob has been in a good form the last few games, gaining confidence. He’ll tell you himself he needs to improve and he can, as long as he keeps working hard and learning from every game. Jahkeele, very young kid, he has so much potential – we saw today him winning the penalty was great. And then Noble coming on in the little minutes that he has and finding the goal – that's what you need to do as a young player,” he listed. “These are the things that get you playing time, little by little, you need to be productive and earn the trust of the coach and the club.”
“It was a great game by the young players; they have to keep going though,” Osorio added. “They can't be satisfied with this happening, they need to look to do this every game.”
A lopsided scoreline does not always accurately represent what happened on the field. Where others may have risked fielding an under-strength XI, Perez was not one to gamble.
“It was very important,” he stressed. “Putting a strong lineup sends the message to everybody in the team, in the club, how important this competition is for us, how important the game was for us.”
“There is no small opponent,” reminded the coach. “In order to take it seriously, you have to send that message, you have to put out the strongest team and let them know that we have to go and get the result, get the job done.”
“There was speculation that maybe [York] were going to come and sit back, but it's against their DNA,” said Perez. “It's a team that have a good flavour of football, they like to play good football, and tonight they were faithful to their style. They gave a good game.”
“At the end, the result reflects maybe the difference in quality,” he allowed. “But I admire that they came and presented a game that is faithful to their style and they gave us a really strong game.”
The time and location of the next round against Pacific is due to be announced on Friday. And then Toronto returns to MLS action this weekend when they travel to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
They do so with a spring in their step: two straight victories, having kept a precious and elusive clean-sheet.
“It's a big win,” said Osorio. “This trophy means a lot to us. It was a big game for us.”
“These games against the CPL teams haven't gone easy for MLS teams,” he highlighted. “We saw Montreal struggled a little bit over there in Halifax and we saw what happened with Vancouver. We knew this wasn't going to be easy, but to win like this, the way we are supposed to, it's a big confidence boost.”
“Our last two games have been very good: we won the last game, against the second-place team in the East, and the game before that we deserved to win even with a man down. Three positive performances in a row,” Osorio added. “This is good for the team. We want to end the season strong and in this championship we are looking to bring it home. Very important win for us today.”
In miserable weather, TFC got the job done. The fans who braved the elements got a display worthy of the first-ever rendition of this Toronto derby – a rare ‘I was there’ moment.
“For fans that were here,” smiled Perez. “It's greatly appreciated.”