TORONTO – Their bags are packed and the plane is ready for takeoff. Next stop: Newark.
Toronto FC finished up their final training session before departing for New Jersey on Sunday afternoon, working on some last-minute details as they prepare for the first leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Red Bulls.
As Monday night’s matchup approaches, the time for analysis is coming to a close. For head coach Greg Vanney, the emphasis shifts to getting the job done on the day.
“It’s time to execute,” he said on Sunday afternoon. “Results are of the utmost importance. Every moment of the game is an important moment of the game. The concentration, focus and intensity from our guys has gone up to another level this week. They understand what the playoffs really look like after last year’s experiences.”
Playing in a difficult environment at Red Bull Arena, the Reds will have to keep their composure and stay the course, a fact not lost on Vanney
“It’s a 180-minute game. The series won’t be decided in the first 15 minutes,” he continued. “Over the course of the series, there will be twists and turns; we have to be ready for those moments. We’ll stick to our game plan and do what we can to put the game in our vision.”
The grind of the playoffs will be a new experience for goalkeeper Alex Bono, who remained on the bench during Toronto’s playoff run in 2016. This time around, they Syracuse native will be the main man between the sticks, an opportunity he relishes.
“I’m definitely excited,” he stated. “It’s something I haven’t experienced as a starter. It’s new, it’s different, but it’s just another game at the end of the day. My goal is to go out there and treat it like any other game.”
Coming so close to lifting the Cup last season coupled with their status as Supporters’ Shield champions means that the Reds have turned from the hunters to the hunted. But that doesn’t bother Bono one bit. In fact, it only adds fuel to the fire.
“It’s motivation, for sure,” he smiles. “We know that we were the best team over the course of the regular season. That gives us the confidence that on any given day, we can play with and beat any team in this league. We just need to play the way we’ve been playing all season.”