TORONTO – There's just something about rainy nights at BMO Field.
The goals continued to flow on a drizzly Friday night as Toronto FC defeated Minnesota United FC 4-3 to pick up a big three points at home in the first match after the SIS grass hybrid was stitched into the pitch.
Minnesota took the lead in the 17th minute when Darwin Quintero, ever the threat, beat Alex Bono to a bouncing ball, but a pair of strikes from Alejandro Pozuelo within 110 seconds of each other – a new TFC record for fastest two goals by a single player - put Toronto ahead.
The visitors would equalize in the 57th minute when Angelo Rodriguez headed in a Romain Metanire cross and took the lead in the 70th minute, again through Quintero, from the penalty spot after Chris Mavinga brought down Rodriguez at the top of the area.
Cue Jordan Hamilton.
Having come on in the 73rd minute, Hamilton equalized in the 77th minute, sweeping a lovely Jonathan Osorio through-ball past Mannone and then found what proved to be the game-winner two minutes later, beating a defender to a bouncing ball on the goal-line after Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore combined to get the ball towards goal.
Hamilton's brace, though still within the two-minute range, took slightly longer than Pozuelo's.
“The good news is that the field is amazing, the guys were really positive about that,” began Vanney post-match. “The other good news is we got three points out of the game, showed some resilience, some fight back on a couple of occasions.”
“Clearly there are some things that we have to work on and deal with: again, too many soft goals that keep putting us in this position that we have to fight back from and then some other things inside the game that we have got to continue to clean up,” stressed Vanney. “The one thing that is great out of this is this first six, seven games, is that we can score goals, but the flip side we've got to stop conceding goals.”
Bradley echoed his coach: “My take is three points.”
“Early in the season, you have to find different ways to win. Three really, really important points. We'll be honest with ourselves, understand that things have to be better, but big three points,” continued Bradley. “Points aren't easy to come by.”
“They're a dangerous team, got some fast, athletic guys in the attacking part of the field. We did some things well, needed to do other things better,” reminded Bradley. “Finding ways to take three points on days when you're not your best... that's important.”
That a match between Toronto and Minnesota ended in a goal-fest was a continuation of the theme whenever the two meet. In three matches all-time 19 goals have been scored. Toronto's win was the reverse of the scoreline last year in Minnesota.
Pozuelo enjoyed the proceedings, but only because of the result: “Yes [I like it], if it’s a win. If it’s not a win, no. But we won the game, so, of course, I liked the win.”
Another brace, another assist – the Spaniard now boasts four goals and five assists through four matches – Pozuelo continues to hit firsts for himself: “No, I never scored two goals really fast.”
Involved in nine goals already for TFC, he sees no problem with keeping up that blistering pace.
“I need to continue, this is the most important,” said Pozuelo. “If I don't have goals and don't give assists, this is for nothing. I need to continue like this.”
Vanney was pleased with his newest designated player's production: “He's a quality player, who can do special things in special moments.”
“What's interesting is he got off to a rough start, having a hard time connecting, and then out of nowhere: bang bang he hits two goals,” said Vanney. “That's what you can do when you're a difference-making type of player.”
And Hamilton's brace has seen the 23-year-old striker score three goals in as many appearances, managing the feat in just 159 minutes on the pitch.
“What Jordan did tonight is really what Jordan does,” said Vanney. “Coming on tonight with two huge goals to help us salvage three points.”
As Vanney mentioned in his opening statement, that the reinforced pitch earned such rave reviews bodes well for the team going forward. Solving a problem that has hobbled their ability to play the type of game they desire.
“My initial reaction is that it is excellent,” said Bradley. “Even with the weather over the last 24 hours, in terms of holding up, being more solid, having a more firm base, playing fast. That part was great.”
“The expectation is it should only get better from here – the stitching was only finished [a few] days ago – with more time to set, with better weather,” added Bradley. “The two big takeaways from tonight are: three big points and the hope going forward we're going to have an awesome field.”
With their next match another home game, against the Portland Timbers on Saturday, April 27, Toronto will focus on continuing the incremental progress that Vanney demands with a few of the points they thought they'd lost in tow.
“We felt like we dropped a couple in the last two games, tonight we probably salvaged a couple of those,” said Vanney. “We're about where we should be. The points are fantastic, we always need to take the points, but we also need to be making progress as a team.”
“We need to more connected, moving together better, be able to control the opposition better. We were loose with the ball sometimes,” reminded Vanney. “I felt like we didn't really ever get out of third gear on the night, we were able to escape it.”