2017 Year In Review: November

2017 YEAR IN REVIEW: November

The playoffs continued as November began with the second leg of the Eastern Conference Semifinals fast approaching. 

In the buildup, talk of injuries to key pieces – Drew Moor and Victor Vazquez – proved unfounded, as both were ready when the whistle blew on November 5.

Emotion was running high, tensions boiled over on the pitch and carried on into the tunnel, where all men entered and two fewer returned.

Come the second half, the New York Red Bulls would find the goal they desired, a harmless long-range effort deflecting to elude Alex Bono in the Toronto FC goal to tie the series on aggregate. It was the last goal Bono would concede.

The TFC keeper burst off his line to deny Bradley Wright-Phillips from turning the tide. And though both Jonathan Osorio and Victor Vazquez were denied insurance for one excuse or another, it mattered not, as victory was sealed in defeat. 

A 1-0 loss to the Red Bulls at BMO Field saw TFC advance on away goals following a 2-2 aggregate series score.

In the end, it was Sebastian Giovinco's free-kick prowess that proved the difference; determination key to Toronto outlasting.

But come the start of the next round, TFC would be without his services, as well as those of Jozy Altidore, leaving Tosaint Ricketts to deputize, hunting out that one chance.

Lessons learned on keeping cool, adapt and advance the rallying cry, respect for a difficult opponent was front of mind. The Battle of the Two Greg(g)s was set to kick off with TFC backed up by their travelling fans, as Michael Bradley braced for a decisive midfield battle with Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain.

The Eastern Conference Championship got underway on November 21, the opening leg on the road, as TFC squared off against Trillium Cup rivals, Columbus Crew SC.

The last road match of the season, whatever may come, Bono was again at the centre of the action, coming up big on Harrison Afful,  with a little help from Raheem Edwards' block, to keep the tie delicately balanced 0-0 after 90 minutes.

Before play resumed, on November 27 Greg Vanney was named 2017 MLS Coach of the Year.

Seba and Jozy back, their long layoffs finally over, fears of rust were brushed aside, as TFC entered the second leg at BMO Field on November 29, confident that their future rested exactly where they wanted it.

Bradley was a man-possessed, eating up ground to put in a game-saving tackle on Justin Meram.

Vazquez had another trophy on his boot, only for Columbus keeper Zack Steffen to prove equal to the task at hand.

Cue the drama, as an Afful challenge on Altidore, however inadvertent, hobbled the big man in the 49th minute. 

His race having, seemingly, come to an end. Toronto down to 10 men for much of the 11 minutes left in Altidore's night. When the chance came, Altidore was ready, bursting down the side of the area to score the only goal needed on the night.

Keyser Jozy, as so often this season, the hero once more.

There were momentary scares as Columbus pushed to equalize, but they could not prevent a celebration worthy of a year long wait as the 1-0 win, on the night and in the series, sealed Toronto's return to the game their hearts desired.

The Eastern Conference Championship trophy was held high. Now, the MLS Cup awaits.

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