TORONTO – A big three points to close out the month.
Toronto FC ended July on Saturday night with a 2-1 win over FC Cincinnati at BMO Field with Nick DeLeon and Jozy Altidore providing the goals.
DeLeon found the back of the net after 16 minutes, flicking past the goalkeeper from close-range after Omar Gonzalez directed an Alejandro Pozuelo corner kick towards goal.
“It was a big win for us, a gutsy win,” said DeLeon post-match. “We put a lot into the first half, could have come away with more goals to shutdown the game. Second half, energy dropped a little bit, but we stuck together, got the three points. Overall, very happy.”
His goal was one largely straight off the training ground.
“Pozuelo put in a ball, floated to the back-post,” explained Gonzalez. “I was able to get off my man a bit and redirect it towards the goal. Nick happened to flick it on by the keeper. It was a great goal for us.”
“I'm happy that what we worked on panned out,” continued the defender. “It just shows that if you put in a little extra work, things can work out.”
Though DeLeon's flick wasn't in the original plan: “It was a little bit of improv,” smiled Gonzalez.
With that the players earned themselves another afternoon session this week, according to Greg Vanney.
“We had a second session on Tuesday where we worked on attacking set-pieces,” said the coach. “It was nice because some of the things were executed well on the day and one goal comes from it.”
Altidore would double the lead in the 50th minute with an “incredible goal” from distance, collecting a ball from DeLeon, curling back inside to send a right-footer into the top-corner – his fourth goal in as many matches.
“Nick played him the ball, was a little behind,” detailed Vanney. “But Jozy turned the pass into an incredible goal, so we'll take it.”
Having largely bossed the first half and padding their lead at the start of the second, Toronto allowed Cincinnati life in the second frame with Emmanuel Ledesma pulling one back in the 58th minute, slipping a low shot past Quentin Westberg.
“As soon as I take a goal I’m frustrated,” said Westberg. “It’s way easier to be frustrated while winning because that’s what really matters at the end of the day. We know we have something to look for and work for.”
“This is not an easy game for defence because we do so well that we don’t have anything to do in crucial areas of the field,” explained the goalkeeper. “We need to keep our focus really, really high. It dropped a little bit in the second half, not enough for us to lose or to get a tie, but it’s a thing to always try getting better [at].”
“We could have done a little better managing the end of the game,” he added. “But, all in all, we like the positivity. It’s good that we won.”
Allowed Drew Moor, who made his return to the back-line from injury, lining up alongside Gonzalez: “We made it difficult for ourselves.”
“Getting the second goal early in the second half was nice, but they stepped the pressure up and we didn’t break them down as well as we would have liked,” continued Moor. “Needed to move the ball quicker and get guys in better spots. With some of the other results tonight three points was key.”
Vanney too wanted more production from the first half efforts.
“Dominating first half, we were good with the ball, created a lot of good moments. We should have taken more,” said Vanney. “After such a half, you have to expect the opponent to come out harder. We've got to be able to match that intensity and be better.”
“When they come pressing, we've got to be able to play through them better. We played in front of them too much and the turnovers became a challenge,” added Vanney. “Nevertheless, it's an important three points because everyone around us [in the standings] won as well. Very important three points, as they all are at this point.”
With August fast approaching, TFC hit the road for a match against the New York Red Bulls next Saturday. The following Wednesday, August 7, the away leg of a Canadian Championship semi-final series against Ottawa Fury FC is set and then Toronto returns home for the visit of Orlando City SC on August 10.
Cup matches aside, the schedule is more cooperative going forward.
“It was nice to have a full week of training without a midweek game, to get everybody on the same page,” said DeLeon. “Back on track. Just got to keep it moving, keep progressing; stay together as a unit.”
Michael Bradley called the three points heading into the final two-plus months of the season: “Huge”
“You only have to look at the scores from around the league tonight to know that things are getting real tight and every point is vital,” said the captain. “There were a lot of good things tonight. If you want to be picky, when they got to 2-1, we didn't have a great way to put the game back on our terms, but the mentality was very strong, we still dealt with things in a good way. You have to be able to close things out like that sometimes.
“Huge three points,” he added. “Now we get ready for another really big game against Red Bull next week.”