TORONTO – Wins don’t come much bigger than that.
On Saturday night at BMO Field, Toronto FC defeated the Montreal Impact 2-1, completing a season sweep of their rivals in MLS play, taking all three points, leapfrogging into the playoff positions in the Eastern Conference, and securing the bragging rights ahead of next month’s Canadian Championship final.
Not a bad haul from 90 minutes of toil and effort.
“We stayed organized the whole night, which was one of our objectives. If we’re going to get into the playoffs and make any hay, we’ve got to be connected as a group,”said Greg Vanney post-match. “First half was a little slow. Second half, the objective was to extend our pressure more to try to gain a little bit more of the edge. We did that.”
“Unfortunately, we take a goal from a shot from distance. That put a little bit more drive into the group, we adjusted some things, started to get more aggressive and I really liked how we finished the game,” explained the coach. “The ball started to move faster, which is what I’ve been asking for from this group. If we can be more mobile, play forward, and hurt teams, then we’re going to create a lot of problems. As the game progressed, we continued to extend ourselves in that way. That was nice to see.”
Scoreless after the opening 45 where the home side were on the front foot for large patches, but Montreal too found their half-chances. And it was the visitors who took the lead shortly after the restart when Bojan Krkic’s shot from distance banked off the inside of the post in the 49th minute.
Toronto refused to let their heads drop, however, redoubling their efforts to find the equalizer in the 63rd minute when Marky Delgado’s low drive screamed through a forest of legs to find the back of the net.
“A lot of feelings going through my body – chills. It’s something I can’t describe, honestly,” encapsulated Delgado. “I had a lot going on, but the game continued. I had to calm myself down and stay focused. It was a big goal, crucial timing and we built off that, got another one and closed the game out.”
Then Justin Morrow capped off a sweeping move from Toronto come the 81st minute for the eventual game-winner.
Evan Bush got a touch to it, but Michael Bradley, who combined with Jozy Altidore to craft the chance, continued his run into the box to shepherd the bouncing ball over the goal-line.
“Credit to the guys,” said Morrow. “Mentally, it was a big boost for us to come back out on top after going down early in the second half.”
It was a great time for two long-time servants of the club to grab their first goals of the season. And to come back after conceding a disappointing goal spoke volumes.
“Coming from a 1-0 deficit, tying and then winning the game, then making the last minute ours, not conceding anything, that was great,” said goalkeeper Quentin Westberg. “A real team effort.”
“It’s tactical, it’s physical, but ultimately it’s the heart you put in: how bad we want it and how much more we wanted than the opponent,” added Westberg. “Tonight, being a derby makes it even more special. It’s actually more than three points tonight.”
The skipper too was pleased: “In the second half, when we went down 1-0, the mentality and response to go after the game in a strong way was excellent.”
“We’ve got to enjoy this, but be ready to play every game down the stretch in the same way,” urged Bradley. “If we can do that, we’ll be in a good spot.”
After not seeing the pitch last week in Columbus, both Erickson Gallardo and Nicolas Benezet were in the starting XI.
“Good,” said Vanney of the duo’s first starts. “You can see how dynamic Gallardo is. It’s going to be continuing to harness that into the group, into some final product because he can get into those dangerous areas – the kind of potential that he has. He’s still a young man that is learning, but he is explosive, which is one of the things we were looking for.”
“Nico,” continued Vanney of Benezet. “I liked him more when he came inside than when he was playing from the wide position: he was more involved, was able to combine more. He’s a smart player, a clever player. As he continues to understand the league and his teammates he’ll continue to improve on his performances.”
It was a result that began on the training pitch.
“We had a phenomenal week of training,” said Vanney. “Every single one of our guys absolutely killed it in training this week. We saw the fruits of that; growing into this game, and some of the confidence, that connected-ness, that clarity, it all came through.”
Added Vanney: “Based on the week of training, the outcome of this game, the growing performance and aggressiveness in this game, I feel like this was a tipping point for us.”