Toronto FC got their 2018 CONCACAF Champions League campaign off to an excellent start with a 2-0 win over the Colorado Rapids at Dick's Sporting Good Park on Tuesday night in Denver.
“It was a professional performance under hard conditions,” said Jonathan Osorio, who opened the scoring in the 55th minute. “The team came out with a good attitude, mentality. It was not easy. Our objective was to win; that's what we did.”
Braving the frigid conditions, and an early Rapids chance – Alex Bono coming up huge to deny Dominique Badji who broke in behind the Toronto defense in the 27th minute – Toronto played their way into the game, taking home a solid advantage after the first leg of the Round of 16 series.
“Tough night to play,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “It's cold, the field has got a layer of ice. Both teams did their best. They gave us some challenges.”
“We were a little too spread out in the first half; organized ourselves better in the second, took control, started to get the better of the chances,” continued Vanney. “Challenging night. Most important thing is everybody got through healthy on both sides and we'll prepare to play next week.”
Drew Moor, who spent seven years with Colorado, was welcomed back with a frosty return, temperatures dropping to -16 degrees Celsius, the coldest ever for a match involving an MLS Club.
“I've been trying to tell these guys how great the weather is here in Colorado,” smiled Moor. “Tonight proved me very wrong. It was cold, but once you got warmed up, got the blood flow going and the adrenaline started pumping, it wasn't terrible.”
“It's a good result on the road, two away goals,” continued Moor. “Could have been more, but you can't complain too much. Overall performance was good, but room for improvement. We'll go back, watch the video, talk about it, and finish the job back home.”
Osorio beat Tim Howard to score the first goal of TFC's 2018 campaign, placing a back-post header beyond the keeper from an inviting Sebastian Giovinco cross in the 55th minute, after Jozy Altidore found Giovinco open on the right-side of the area.
“I saw Seba go down the line, so I made way to the back-post – that's where the space was,” explained Osorio. “Seba played a brilliant cross, all I had to do was put it back to the other side. It went exactly where I wanted it.”
And Giovinco himself added the second in the 73rd minute volleying a lovely end-line ball from newcomer Auro into the bottom corner after Marky Delgado played the Brazilian down the right.
“Seba was exactly what we needed him to be tonight,” said Moor. “He was dangerous, lively, got on the ball a bunch, came back deep. Put two important points on the board for us with a goal and an assist. Couldn't ask more from him.”
Some 74 days after hoisting the MLS Cup, Toronto FC hit the ground running as they look to continue the form that saw them win a treble in 2017.
“There is some carryover,” said Vanney of the strong open. “You never start a season in the same place where you finish. We've got to work through some details, get in sync, but the foundation is there. There is some confidence and continuity in a group that you've had success with; some momentum, belief.”
Added Bradley: “All these things add up.”
“We've had, by-and-large, the same group together for a few years, we understand how we want to play,” continued Bradley. “We were the last team to finish last year and the first team to start this year, that counts for something. We have a group that enjoys being together, training, playing. We're going to continue to go after things.”
The second leg is set for Tuesday, February 27 at BMO Field, TFC returning home with a two-goal advantage in tow.
“We handled the game in a good, professional way. It's clear to see how much this tournament means to us and how seriously we're taking it,” said Bradley. “We feel good about the result, but now we've got to go back to BMO and finish the job.”
Said Osorio of the impending homecoming: “We're very confident.”
“Regardless of the score, we're always confident going back to BMO,” assured Osorio. “We wanted to get a result today so that we could play with an advantage back home. We're excited to play in front of our fans.”