Toronto FC

Toronto FC advance in Canadian Championship with a 5-star performance


Toronto FC got job one done on Wednesday night, defeating League1 Ontario champions Simcoe County Rovers FC 5-0 in the preliminary round of the Canadian Championship at BMO Field.

Prince Owusu continued his hot streak, opening the floodgates in the 18th minute. Cassius Mailula added a second on the half-hour and Kevin Long the third three minutes later.

TFC captain Jonathan Osorio marked his milestone night with a goal in the 39th minute to give the side a commanding 4-0 lead into the break and Tyrese Spicer added another in the 76th minute, securing advancement to the quarterfinals.

“We had a few goals prior to the game,” said John Herdman post-match. “To see and be part of Jonathan getting his 350, it was a pretty special night. Young Andrei [Dumitru] getting into the game, Cassius getting his first goal, Long getting his first goal was nice, but there was a big part of just being focused and deliberate tonight in that first half.”

“A little bit disappointed in the second half, but not many coaches would say that after you come in with that scoreline,” he continued. “We missed our target tonight, which was to break the goals record for the club, but ultimately happy to get past Simcoe Rovers.”

“As you know there’s always a David and Goliath story line there and we got through it,” added Herdman.

“So proud of the lads and happy for the fans.”

There was an element of facing the unknown against Simcoe County – their last game was the League1 Ontario Final last September and Toronto had never faced opposition from that level – but ultimately quality shone through.

“We weren't able to get much eyes on them coming in,” said Herdman. “They struggled first half, it was difficult for them. The occasion is always going to be tough. You come up against this quality here, the pace of MLS, and it's different.”

“They adapted in the second half, started to get numbers to manage our width and our switch of play. It was better, but the first half we knew we had to kill the game and to some degree get ready for Orlando at the weekend.”

The first goal on a night like that was always going to be key. TFC were on the front foot through the early goings, but the Rovers asked some questions: Luka Gavran was tested by a dipping Orlendis Benítez free-kick in the 14th minute.

Cue Owusu getting on the end of a Kobe Franklin ball at the back-post, muscling his header past Rimi Olatunji in goal. It was the fifth goal in six appearances for the German striker.

“Distribution, delivery, we've worked on that,” highlighted Herdman. “We went into a game against the [Vancouver] Whitecaps and I think we have 13 crosses and only three of them got past the first man.”

“The players have been putting the work in, the wing-backs, the inside forwards, and Prince has been finding that back-post area. The work the lads have put in is starting to pay off,” he continued. “And for him, he's been carrying – like any centre-forward, when you haven't scored for a long time, you’re carrying that frustration. Once he got his first we all felt there was more to come and we just had to keep feeding him.”

Owusu then set up Mailula’s goal, unbalancing the defenders before picking out his teammate at the penalty spot for a low finish.

Mailula, who arrived last summer, was making his first start of the season, limited to just 11 minutes in MLS play. It was his first goal for the club.

“I’m really happy he got his goal,” said Herdman. “He's been really patient. When the games are one a week and you've got players like Osorio, [Lorenzo] Insigne, [Federico] Bernardeschi that play in those forward areas, it's very difficult for Cassius to get game time and minutes.”


“He's a young player. He’s come from a league in South Africa where it's different. The style, the standards, are very different and he's still trying to adapt to life here in MLS,” he continued. “Every week he keeps his head down, he works hard, he's always got a positive outlook. Players like that build a resilience through MLS. This season might not be his season – it might be – but if he can keep doing what he's doing, staying focused, he's got a chance.”

Toronto pressed their advantage, Long added another in short order, a towering header from an Osorio corner-kick – his first for the club as well – and the scorers of the first two combined to set up Toronto’s fourth: Osorio’s side-volley from an unselfish Owusu cushioned header of a Mailula ball into the box.

As Herdman mentioned, it was Osorio’s 350th appearance for TFC in all competitions, extending his hold on the all-time record. Wednesday also marked the eleventh Canadian Championship in which the TFC captain has featured.

“No, it doesn't get old,” said Osorio about representing his city in this, or any, competition. “I wasn't even aware until five minutes ago, but you just take it game-by-game, day-by-day, and at the end you hope the number is a big one if you're doing things right.”

“Just happy today to play in this game with the guys, get the job done, and now looking forward to Saturday,” he continued. “We have a big game and then, in this competition, looking forward to the next round.”

Toronto head to Florida for a clash with Orlando City SC this weekend and will face the winner of the preliminary round fixture between Canadian Premier League side HFX Wanderers FC and League1 Quebec champions CS Saint-Laurent. The two-legged quarterfinals are set to be played next month.

Both sides made changes at the half and Spicer rounded out the scoring in the 76th minute heading in another Franklin cross.

The magic of the cup in Canada isn’t just the drama of the games themselves or the possibility of upset, but about how far the game has come in recent years.

Progress secured, Osorio took a moment to reflect on what nights like this mean for the game in this country.

“It's a beautiful thing,” he said. “To think a few years ago, League1 teams weren't even in this competition.”

“League1 itself is a very young league and it's giving players another pathway,” Osorio continued. “And what better way for these guys to come to BMO Field, to play in a stadium like that, on a big stage, and feel the level, see where they rank and how far or close they are.”


“It's a great opportunity for them to show themselves,” he added. “They showed well, in the second half especially. It's pretty special to play against a team that I have friends that own the team, that's a really cool thing as well.”

Simcoe County Rovers FC, a team that played their first-ever match two years ago to the day, squared off against Toronto FC.

“It's a step on a journey,” pinpointed Herdman. “We're all proud to see the veterans given back to the legacy of the game here. People like Atiba [Hutchinson], Janine Beckie, Doneil Henry, Julian de Guzman, it's awesome what they're trying to commit to the fabric here.”

Those Canadian internationals, past and present, are part owners of Simcoe County.

“It's the journey for these League1 clubs. They have to have these experiences,” Herdman continued. “They know what the standard is, they know what the level is. When they come here again, they'll not be taken in by an occasion.”

“We will see them back again,” he added. “I’m sure the next game will be a lot closer because that's just how it works. They'll experience it; come back stronger.”

And though the scoreline doesn’t reflect it, Simcoe County prevented Toronto from achieving their aim on the night.

“We were looking at the record,” said Herdman, who alluded prematch to the side having aims beyond winning. “The record is six goals scored for TFC, so the target was there at seven. We fell short.”

“We came here to set records, we came here to be first at as many things as we can,” added the TFC coach. “That's the standard I’ve set for the club, the team, and we missed that standard tonight. I told these men, ‘We missed a big opportunity tonight to make history.’”

Herdman will have to be satisfied with many firsts and milestones on the night, including one of his own, as well as avoiding the potential banana skin of which he forewarned.

On nights like this even Goliath feels the pressure.

“Everything's a first for me, I'm like Simcoe tonight,” said Herdman, who managed his first Canadian Championship match. “It was a first here. You always see the FA Cup in England and I just didn't want to be on the side of some of those FA Cup losses.”

“I've seen Newcastle to Stevenage,” he continued, recalling a famous 2011 FA Cup Third Round cupset that saw Stevenage FC knockout Newcastle United. “I just didn't want to be on that other side of history. It was a bit nerve-wracking to be honest.”

Toronto’s quest to lift a ninth Voyageurs Cup and regain the title as the best in the nation continues.

“It's an important competition for many reasons,” laid out Osorio.

“One to call yourself the best team in Canada, but two to qualify for the Concacaf Champions League. That's a big thing for this club.”

“That's a competition that we're looking to play in and compete and compete for,” he added. “[The Canadian Championship] is an important competition, always, and being at this club you always want to show that you're the best club in Canada. That means a lot for us.”

Closed Herdman: “Like Jonathan said, this is a big competition. You get access to the next level of football and there's a trophy at the end of it that these guys want to win.”