OTTAWA – Advantage Toronto FC.
Jonathan Osorio scored the only goal of the game at TD Place Stadium against Ottawa Fury FC on Wednesday night. TFC would ride that 5th minute strike and some fine goalkeeping from Clint Irwin to take a 1-0 advantage as the series shifts to BMO Field with next week's second leg.
“We met our objective for the night,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “Last year we didn't get the result we were looking for. Tonight we came, got a shutout, got the away goal. We're leaving pleased; set ourselves up with the position to finish the series at home next week.”
Ottawa stunned Toronto in the 2017 edition of the Canadian Championship, beating TFC 2-1 in the first leg. Toronto would go on to overturn the result at home, but thanks to Osorio, TFC went one better this time around.
Ryan Telfer and Nicolas Hasler did excellent work to keep an attack alive before finding Osorio in space at the corner of the area. His quickly taken right-footer eluded Maxime Crepeau in the Fury goal, squeezing in at the short-side.
“Canadian wearing the armband in the Canadian Championship, scoring for his hometown team,” summarized Irwin. “That's always good to see.”
“He's been our best player this season,” added Irwin. “Playing with a lot of confidence, everything is crisp, he's working hard for the team. He really led us out there today.”
With Vanney opting to rest several starters, Osorio brought the difference in a hard-fought contest.
“Johnny's had a great year,” said Vanney. “It's the Canadian Championship, he's our premier Canadian player, it was his night to be the captain, to lead the team.”
“We had seven Canadians starting (Osorio, Ashtone Morgan, Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser, Ryan Telfer, Malik Johnson, and Ayo Akinola), plus Jordan Hamilton [came] in. Eight [saw] the field tonight,” noted Vanney. “We're proud. We're committed to developing our young Canadian players through our system, our academy, and USL [side]. And more and more of them are achieving first team minutes.”
“Jonathan is a leader; Ashtone as well, another guy out there who played like a true pro,” added Vanney. “[They] were real leaders tonight and did a great job.”
It was Osorio's first time wearing the captain's armband: “It's an honour to captain your hometown team. And to help get the win is a bonus.”
“It was a proud moment for me; something I can maybe look forward to in the future,” continued Osorio. “More, I'm happy for the team, glad we got the win and put ourselves in a good position to finish it off next week.”
Having scored early, Toronto still needed to see out the result. Cue Irwin, who helped organize the defense throughout the match and came up with a massive save in the 85th minute to deny Steevan Dos Santos a headed equalizer.
“Clint's voice really helped us today,” said Osorio. “He was putting us in good positions, also himself, to clear the ball. It was always going to be like this [at the end, Ottawa] putting balls in: they have a lot of height. We did a great job of dealing with that and getting the clean sheet.”
The return to Ottawa, where he played for Capital City FC in 2011, was a special one for the goalkeeper.
“It's always a little nostalgic,” said Irwin. “When I was here, this stadium was still under construction, but we were training here. Our preseason was running the ramps and stairs, up and down. It's cool to see it now.”
“It's always a nice time: get to see some faces behind the goal and say, 'What's up,'” added Irwin. “I always enjoy playing here.”
Series lead in hand, Toronto will not only be encouraged by that, but by how it was accomplished: scoring the first goal and seeing out the result with a clean sheet. Both points of emphasis from the head coach.
“The two things we wanted tonight were a shutout and a win,” said Vanney. “We got both of those, so we're going home feeling good, but understand there is still more to do.”
“To be solid defensively was an important aspect,” added Vanney. “This is not an easy place to play. They keep their lines tight, they're a very organized team, they don't give away a lot of space. To keep things tight on the defensive side is what we need. We've given away far too many goals in MLS, far too many.”
Said Irwin: “We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game. We really had to fight out there: be disciplined and make sure that we were concentrating the whole way through. The guys did a good job fighting for each other, making sure we got the clean sheet and a good result going into the next leg.”
Carrying that into Saturday's road match against the Chicago Fire will be crucial.
“The mentality was good,” urged Irwin. “We can take the discipline and concentration from this game and apply that on Saturday.”
With the next two matches against the Fire, veritable six-pointers, Wednesday's win may just be the momentum builder the side has desired.
“A small step, but [one] forward nonetheless,” said Osorio. “We have to use it; turn our focus to Saturday against Chicago.”