TORONTO – After 47 matches that spanned the continent, the 2018 season is in the books.
Toronto FC closed their year on Sunday afternoon with an emphatic 4-1 win over Atlanta United at BMO Field, providing a share of the drama that was Decision Day across MLS.
Lucas Janson opened the scoring after nine minutes following a turnover forced by pinpoint pressure from Marky Delgado. Delgado himself added the second in the 21st minute, capping off some fine interplay at the top of the box between Sebastian Giovinco and Jonathan Osorio.
Both sides would find the back of the net around the hour mark, only for video review to cancel each, before Atlanta's Josef Martinez converted a penalty kick in the 77th minute to make it a match.
But Janson would add his second on the back of more good work from Giovinco six minutes later and the Italian himself would net the fourth come the 88th minute, sweeping a Jay Chapman cross past Brad Guzan in the visitors goal at the back-post.
“The best part of the day is the fight, the commitment, the work that everyone put in,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “We know the quality that is in the team. We know the challenges we faced during the course of the season.”
“No matter what, when you go into a long break it’s always better to win. It doesn’t make up for the season we had, but the effort and the execution on the day was very good against a good team,” explained Vanney. “We’ll take that for what it’s worth and move forward into an offseason where we have some time to really get ourselves prepared and take all the lessons learned for next year.”
Pride was all that was on the line for TFC on the night. That, and perhaps a chance to offer a reminder, as the other teams in the league prepare for the playoffs.
For Osorio, that showed: “No matter the circumstances this team is willing to show up and give our best. The mentality was really good yesterday. We showed the rest of the league that we're still a capable team.”
Added Giovinco: “We played our game... like last year. We finished in a good way. Now we have to think for next season.”
The 2018 season was a rollercoaster, riven with highs and lows. The Concacaf Champions League run seems both like yesterday and a lifetime ago.
“In a season that has been challenging, you look for things to be proud of,” said Vanney. “It's the last day of the year and the other team had a lot more to play for than us. We showed some character, outplayed them on a day where they had everything to play for. I'm proud of the guys to finish on this note. We'll take it.”
Not only does Toronto head into the break with a positive result and close the year with a win in front of their supporters on Fan Appreciation Day, but in the process they were able to inflict some suffering on a side that was looking to take something from them, whether that be the Supporters' Shield or the all-time points record.
“More than anything [the win was] for the fans: to play a good game for the last time in 2018 in front of them,” said Michael Bradley. “[And] to make sure you're not passing the shield onto another team on your field. In all those ways, it was good.”
Ahead lies the offseason; some much needed rest. But before too long--February looms just a few short months away--the matches will begin anew.
“Our team needs a break: mentally, physically,” said Vanney. “This year has been frustrating for everybody. They need to clear their minds a little bit.”
“This team has raised seven trophies over the last three years; has accomplished a lot of things,” continued Vanney. “We need to take what we can out of this season. I have no doubt the group will come back very motivated to enter the season – Champions League and regular season – with a fresh mindset and be prepared to go after it.”