TORONTO – It would have been easy to just throw in the towel.
With the math against them, the visitors taking an early lead, and Jozy Altidore forced off after 18 minutes, it seemed like once again the deck was stacked against Toronto FC. But the team refused to go quietly, storming back to a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution at BMO Field on Saturday night.
Such body blows have been a regular occurrence in the MLS season.
“I'm over those moments. They've been so frequent,” dismissed Greg Vanney of whether the thought of 'Oh no, not again' crossed his mind. “Not too much surprises me this year anymore.”
Toronto did not let their heads drop.
“We kept at it in a good way: trying to make the right plays, to put passes together, to play quickly as they were stepping out hard. We were mobile and aggressive in the attacking part of the field,” said Michael Bradley. “Good night. Now we got to see if we can do it four more times.”
The Revolution took the lead in the 10th minute and then Altidore was unable to continue, so Vanney went to his bench, bringing on Argentine forward Lucas Janson.
“It became next guy [up],” said Vanney. “Every time that he's played, he's given everything that he has on the field. We kept him ready because we knew both Seba [Giovinco] and Jozy were coming off injuries. We knew there was a possibility one of them might not go the distance, much less the half; Lucas came on and gave us a great spark.”
Added Giovinco of Janson: “He's a good player. He knows soccer, understands the movement.”
Giovinco would score the equalizer in the 36th minute with a classic strike from range after Victor Vazquez threaded him into space. And Janson would nab what proved to be the game-winner come the 53rd minute, but not until after another gut-punch when Jonathan Osorio's goal at the start of the second half was pulled back by a VAR decision.
“You can't just check out,” said Marky Delgado of that disappointment. “You still have a whole game in front of [you].”
“The confidence of the group is good right now,” noted Delgado. “We kept playing our game, stuck to the plan. We were confident that after every opportunity we were getting closer.”
Minutes after Osorio's was ruled out, Janson put Toronto ahead and they never looked back, picking up a first win of the season after conceding the opening goal.
“Tonight we were able to create and finish opportunities,” explained Vanney. “Defensively we were very stable. When the group sees that, there is confidence that we're not going to give up one and can continue to create opportunities. That leads to the momentum building.”
“Once the game opened up and we got the lead, now [New England] have to extend themselves; we were going to continue to create chances,” continued Vanney. “It was a lot of the team we saw last year. It was nice to see that again.”
Resilience is the name of the game.
A season is full of twists and turns, calls that go against you, obstacles that must be overcome. The playoff race in the Eastern Conference is no different, the latest convulsion being D.C. United's 5-0 win over the Montreal Impact.
“At this point we have to think about winning every game and then see what happens with the other teams,” said Giovinco.
“We talked beforehand about taking care of our business and knowing that down the stretch in MLS, anything can happen,” added Bradley. “We were able to gain a little bit of ground tonight; that's important. Now we get ready to try to take another three points at home next weekend and see how the chips fall next Saturday.”
There was a familiar feel to the win over New England, one that said this isn't over yet.
“I'd be lying to say that it didn't cross my mind, 'How is this team not in the playoff picture right now?'” admitted Vanney. “We know the challenges that have plagued us, but what I'm happy about is the group put their foot on the gas and never took it off once.”
“That was a good sign,” continued Vanney. “It looked like they were having fun again in a season that has been challenging in many ways. They were enjoying playing. That was a big part of it.”
And it helped that, Drew Moor and Altidore injuries aside, Vanney was able to field his strongest XI in some time.
“We started to have everybody back,” noted Giovinco. “You guys see. We don't have to say anything more.”
There are four matches left, beginning with the visit of the Vancouver Whitecaps next Saturday. Then come trips to Montreal and D.C., before a Decision Day encounter with Atlanta United.
“Keep playing; keep winning,” said Vanney. “That's what we have to do.”
“With every win we put a little bit of pressure on the teams in front of us to have to keep getting results. We want to finish strong, no matter what game is the last game of our season,” continued Vanney. “Tonight was the first step in that.”
“Now we have Vancouver coming, another home game. We want to keep building momentum,” stressed Vanney. “We know ultimately it's not in our control, but what is is trying to get four more wins out of the next four games.”
Added Bradley: “We're going to continue to fight, continue to play, to take care of our business. Until somebody says the math no longer checks out, we're going to keep trying to play, put wins together, and see where that takes us.”