Toronto FC picked up an impressive 5-1 win away from home on Saturday night beating FC Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium.
Patrick Mullins scored the first off a turnover, picking out the bottom corner with a tidy finish to open the floodgates. Nick DeLeon on the volley and Marky Delgado with a header made it three before half-time, while Michael Bradley sealed the result in the second half before Nicolas Benezet added a fifth come the 85th minute.
Cincinnati’s Emmanuel Ledesma would find some consolation for the home side in the 92nd minute from the penalty spot following a VAR decision.
“Just the execution, you know?” said Greg Vanney of what pleased him most on the night. “Pat gets our first good look at goal and he buries it, which sets the game off on the right foot. And then when we got chances, we put chances away.”
“We held on to the ball well, made it difficult for them to get pressure on us, we stayed fairly disciplined on the night. The ball moved fast. We created chances. When they were high, we were looking to get behind them,” detailed Vanney. “Just some good, professional decisions on the night.”
“We are continuing to build off a good stretch of games. Tonight one of the big differences was we executed,” concluded Vanney. “When you get on top of games like we were able to today, then spaces open up a little bit more and then it’s a question of if you can keep hurting them. This is a big three points for us. We keep rolling.”
The offensive output was both necessary and a product of the work put in.
“We needed one game like this for the confidence,” said Alejandro Pozuelo, who registered two assists. “We know we have a very good team, very good players. We deserved these three points.”
But it wasn’t just the production of the Spaniard that was critical on the night, the whole team, with recent additions Benezet and Erickson Gallardo in the fold, continues to find their groove as a unit.
“The group is settling into their relationships, settling into the shape,” said Vanney. “There’s just a better, clear understanding over the last three-four weeks that has allowed us to be a little more consistent through games, both in our defensive shape and also our attacking shape.”
“They are just doing a great job of paying attention to each other, making sure that we are in good spots for one another,” added Vanney. “We’ve got guys that are very comfortable on the ball, so if we keep the ball moving fast and trust each other, we’re a hard team to play against. That was key to tonight.”
It’s a good time of year to be hitting stride.
“You’ve heard me say it a few times this year, it’s been a weird season,” repeated Michael Bradley. “It’s been choppy, it’s been stop and start, but the reality is still that the most important games are in front of us. So if we can keep improving and we can keep a strong mentality, understand what games this time of year are about, then we feel like we can have a lot still to say in terms of what goes on from here on in.”
An emphatic night began with Mullins pouncing on a turnover that caromed off Delgado into his path on the edge of the Cincinnati box.
“Just a strong mentality from the group to start the game: aggressive, on the front foot, putting them under pressure,” credited Mullins, who netted his second in six MLS appearances for TFC. “We were excellent at that and we got a goal off of it.”
“Once we were able to turn the ball over there was only one thing on my mind,” he said. “I saw the spot that I wanted to put it and I put it there. It was a good start to the game.”
“Yeah, that was one of the words we talked about today. We knew we would get chances and it was about execution,” explained Vanney. “The second part was about being ruthless, especially in the second half, make sure that our mentality was right. We wanted to put one more up to really kind of seal the deal and make it really difficult.”
“The guys took some really good goals,” added the coach. “To get a win like this in a place like this on the road sets us up for a big match on Wednesday.”
Toronto faces Eastern Conference leaders NYCFC, who they beat 4-0 in March, at Yankee Stadium midweek.
Pozuelo relished the aggressive approach: “I’m very happy. We scored one goal and we continued, second goal we continued. This team, we have passion for the playoffs. We need it.”
Said Bradley: “The way we went after the game, the way we played, the mentality, the concentration – everything was really good.”
“Every guy understood how important it was,” he continued. “This time of year, you’ve got to be ready to do that every time you step on the field. We feel good about the group that we have and now we’ve got to keep pushing because there’s still more there for us.”
The win stretched TFC’s unbeaten run to five matches and saw them leap over the New England Revolution and level with the New York Red Bulls on the table, one point behind D.C. United in fourth place and a home playoff date.
“What I really like about our group right now is over this stretch of games we’ve gotten better in all phases,” emphasized Mullins. “On the individual level we’ve been very sharp technically, decision-making, fitness levels have been spot on. Tactically we put in a great shift this week, starting with the coaching staff having a great plan in place for us and us executing on the field.”
“And then on the day being up for the match, showing that with our play, with our desire and our performance on the field,” added Mullins. “All those elements are going to lead to a good run and, hopefully, we can do something magical here.”
The captain summed up the situation.
“It was a really important game. Three really, really big points,” said Bradley. “This time of year, you’re paying attention to every game around the league, you know the other results, you know the standings, you know how quickly things can change.”
“Obviously, when New England lose late this afternoon, then it makes an already important game that much more important. We knew that we had the chance to go past them. We knew that we could pull even with Red Bull,” he continued. “This was a really important game. The mentality and the way that we played reflected that. And now we’ve got to get ready for another really big game on Wednesday night in New York City.”