TORONTO – This time it was Jozy Altidore's turn.
A week ago it was Sebastian Giovinco who was the two-goal hero when Toronto FC dispatched Chicago. On Friday night, it was Altidore who provided the brace as TFC handed the Houston Dynamo a 2-0 defeat at BMO Field.
The first came after 16 minutes, when Marky Delgado found Raheem Edwards in open space on the left, allowing the Homegrown wingback to cut a ball into the high-slot for Altidore to power a right-footer past Joe Willis in the Houston net. That was just the final sequence of a 20-pass spell of possession that broke down a tightly packed Dynamo defense.
Come the 32nd minute, Altidore blasted a shot past a helpless Willis, again the end of a stunning team goal that culminated in an Edwards ball in from the left, before a one-two with Giovinco put the US striker in clear on goal.
“It's something we've been talking about, to be patient, to move teams around with our ball circulation,” explained TFC head coach Greg Vanney. “We saw a lot of that in the first half and an unbelievable goal – a team goal – come.”
That was the word of the night: Team.
“It was good for Jozy to get goals, for sure,” admitted Vanney, but despite grabbing the headlines there was little talk of his individual exploits.
Goal scorers may get their name in lights, but credit should not fall solely on their shoulders, emphasized captain Michael Bradley.
“I don't think the quality of our team gets enough credit. The way that we're able to play, that tactically we're able to do a few different things... Of course, you need your best attacking players to be dangerous and score goals. Since they've been here, Jozy, Seba, they've been [so] on more than their share of nights. But I think when you look across the board, in other places, you find we have a good team. We have a lot of good players. People miss how good some of our other players are.”
Indeed, it was not just Altidore on the night. Delgado was excellent, Edwards electric. The backline dealt with every threat, keeping their first clean sheet in four matches. And Giovinco, well, on another night, he could have had two, three of his own.
“On any given night, that's what you need,” said Vanney of the rotating cast of game-changers. “Not everybody plays at peak level every night – if we did, we'd win by more. Sometimes guys have good games, sometimes mediocre games, sometimes not the best games. In this stretch, a few guys have stepped in every game and made a difference.”
Continued Vanney: “We're getting deeper. It's been a process over years, continuing to add pieces, bring younger players along, add quality. The understanding of what we're trying to do is getting better; the confidence of the run at the end of last year can't be underestimated. Now it's just sheer belief that [this is] the best team in the league.”
That word again... team.
“We feel good about the group that we have,” said Bradley. “That, on any given day, it doesn't matter who is playing, the guys on the field are going to get the job done.”