TORONTO – Who ya gonna call?
With their season hanging in the balance, Jozy Altidore was there to answer for Toronto FC as the Reds rolled to a 3-0 win over the Chicago Fire at BMO Field on Saturday night.
“Always nice to get a win,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “Equally important was the performance, especially in the second half. [It] started to feel like us again: the way the ball was moving; the chance creation; the looks we were getting and the control we had of the game.”
“In addition to the win, feeling a little bit of that momentum building over the course of the game and looking more like ourselves than we have in a while,” highlighted Vanney. “I was pleased with that as well.”
With the season set to enter its final three months when August begins, TFC need to keep rolling.
A second-straight league win over the Fire, as well as solid victories over Ottawa Fury FC in legs of the Canadian Championship semifinals over the past few weeks, have the side trending in the right direction.
And it was the big three who rose to the occasion and found the back of the net.
Jozy Altidore pounced on a loose ball during a goalmouth scramble at the start of the second half, Jonathan Osorio capped off a brilliant attacking move from Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco in the 72nd minute, and Giovinco himself added the third in the 89th minute.
“Seba scored, Osorio continues to score, Jozy scored, all of our big goal scorers found the back of the net,” said Vanney. “It was good for the group to perform, to create opportunity after opportunity, and to get a convincing win.”
“This group is, over the last couple of years, used to having those moments throughout the course of a season where you have a convincing win, that establishes that you can be a dominant team if you do things the right way and you play together,” continued Vanney. “That was an important statement for us.”
“We’ve been talking about, starting with the Ottawa game a couple weeks ago, building momentum, one win at a time, one result at a time, one performance; so far so good,” added Vanney. “We know we still have a lot of work to do, but beating Chicago twice is a big step towards tracking down, at least Chicago ahead of us, and we’ll see what the other results look like. We’ve got to just keep doing our business along the way.”
Having made his return from injury in the away match last Saturday, Altidore found the back of the net in MLS for the first time since March 30 against Real Salt Lake, scoring his third goal of the season in his fifth appearance.
“It always feels good to score, but the most important thing is the team and how we performed today,” said Altidore. “I'm still a bit rusty, but the chemistry is there. You saw some beautiful soccer, which is what we've become known for. That's the part I am happiest for the most.”
As important as the three goals scored was that Toronto did not allow one at the other end. Add in the two legs against Ottawa and TFC have kept clean-sheets in three of their last four, conceding a single goal throughout the four-game spell.
“It's really encouraging,” said Vanney. “Our comments over last two weeks have been: it's not a matter of scoring more goals, it's a matter of conceding less.”
“The message to the group was: we're going to commit to be the best defending team in the second half of the season. If we do, we'll put ourselves back in the playoff hunt,” continued Vanney. “This team will always find ways to score goals, as long as we are collectively reminded of our defensive responsibilities. If we are locked in on those, we are always going to create chances.”
“Even when we weren't winning, we were still scoring goals,” added Vanney. “For us to defend well, get clean sheets, and decrease, by a lot, the number of goals we're giving away, will always give us a chance to win games.”
The four-match run could not have come at a better time. Ahead lies two serious challenges: a trip to face league-leading Atlanta United FC next Saturday and the visit of NYCFC on August 12. The final of the Canadian Championship against Vancouver Whitecaps FC begins in between – the away leg is set for August 8 at BC Place.
“It is obviously a great period for us, winning four in a row,” said Gregory van der Wiel. “It's good for our confidence; we are back on track.”
“The last couple of months we missed a lot of players,” explained van der Wiel. “Now everybody is back and it feels much better. As you can see on the pitch we play much better too.”
Added Altidore: “Probably our best stretch all year, in terms of MLS play.”
“The goal is just to build on it,” continued Altidore. “We have a tough game coming up next week, against a very good team. It is a game we need: we need these types of games where we are forced to play our best football.”
In the 52nd minute, when Altidore opened the scoring, his celebration – removing his boot and holding it up to his ear – was the spark that ignited the side.
“I was answering the call,” smiled Altidore when asked what that was about. “Sometimes when your city calls you, you've got to pick up the phone.”
“I love being here, playing for this team, for this city; this is my home. Any chance I get I want to express that,” continued Altidore. “It's a unique place to play. You just can't wait to get out there and play in front of these fans and in this stadium. To get back out there tonight and be part of some great moments, some great football, is really positive.”