Grossi x Sept 15, 2018 Image

Goal-filled Thriller vs. Galaxy | "We didn't stop believing. We kept trying"

TORONTO – 2018, though the term seems quaint given the circumstances of this time, was a strange season.

MLS Cup Champions at the end of the 2017 season, Toronto FC were penalty kicks away from winning the Concacaf Champions League when action resumed the following season. In the league, however, it was a year of struggle. Fixture congestion, injuries, the weight of all the important matches played took a toll and come August, the chance to defend their title was dwindling.

Following a six-game winless run at the start of the summer, the team found firmer ground midway through July. A pair of wins, back-to-back, over Chicago, draws away to Atlanta United FC and the San Jose Earthquakes, either side of a tense defeat away to NYCFC, led into a big late August win at home over the Montreal Impact.

With nine games left, it was imperative that TFC made the most of it. Losses in Portland and back home against expansion side LAFC were a setback. The next game would be crucial.

What would transpire on September 15, 2018 at BMO Field, a goal-filled thriller against the Los Angeles Galaxy, is this week’s Match of the Week at TorontoFC.ca.

“We're still pushing,” was how Jonathan Osorio described the mood around the group at the time. “A lot of guys were pretty tired and giving whatever they had left in the tank to try and qualify for the playoffs because we were still mathematically in it.”

“We didn't stop believing. We kept trying, going into games to win, still a good mentality,” he recalled. “It just wasn't going our way that season.”

On this day, for the first 36 minutes at least, it most definitely did.

Victor Vazquez opened the scoring after just five minutes. Jozy Altidore made it 2-0 shortly thereafer and by the 36th minutes, with Sebastian Giovinco adding a third, TFC were in control. It was some vintage TFC 2017 in attack. Little did anyone know it would be one of the last times that particular three-headed behemoth would run rampant as a unit.

And though one would always rather be ahead than behind, even a 3-0 lead can be dangerous, especially with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the pitch.

“When we go up 3-0 we’re pretty comfortable and confident. Maybe we got too confident,” cautioned Osorio. “We were playing really well, started the game very well. When they got the first goal it changed the momentum of the game, they started getting confidence and we didn't do a good job of handling that. With everything that had gone on in the season, not going our way, maybe that weighed in our heads a little bit once they got the first goal.”

And it wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill goal, no; it was pure Zlatan.

A round-house volley, shoulder height, kissed in off the post with the outside of the boot in the waning minutes of the first half. The 500th of his career and highlight-reel stuff.

“It's an amazing goal. Zlatan-esque,” coined Osorio. “Not many players that could do it, if any, other than him.”

“Being a part of the game you're kind of upset and disappointed. We go into games wanting to win. We take a lot of pride in trying to get clean sheets as well, so when they got that goal there goes our shutout,” said Osorio. “But now, looking back at the bigger picture – his 500th goal and to score like that – for such a great player, such a great career, it's pretty cool to have been part of that game.”

“And probably, even better for the fans to see it, to be a part of it as well and have witnessed that,” he added. “Looking back that was pretty cool and he got the ovation from the fans. He deserved it.”

When play resumed with the second half, it was the Galaxy, fuelled by that moment of magic from Zlatan, who seized the advantage.

Ola Kamara grabbed a second and Rolf Feltscher the third in the opening 15 minutes of the frame.

“They get back to 3-3, it’s tough,” recalled Osorio. “You can feel the crowd get down and frustrated.”

“But, as a player, me personally, once they tied it, it's crunch time now and we have to dig and fight because we have to win that game to keep anything alive for the playoffs,” he explained. “That's how every game was from that point on: every game was a must win.”

“And so when they tied it up there was just a sense of urgency,” Osorio stressed. “Where we needed to win the game and everybody needed to find another gear, to find a way to get us the three points.”

It would be Osorio himself who broke that tension, a rare headed goal.

“It was nice,” smiled Osorio through the phone. “In the third goal, it was my guy – Feltscher came from behind me – and I felt that I let the team down. I took it upon myself that I needed to do something to help my team get back into the game.”

“I was being very aggressive that year, getting into the box,” Osorio continued. “The ball goes wide to Marky [Delgado] and I found myself in a really good spot around the first post. Marky puts in a great ball – I don't score a lot of headers but that was put on a platter – so all I had to do was get my head on it and direct it towards goal.”

One of the 10 goals he scored in MLS play that season.

“I was playing on a lot of confidence that year,” said Osorio. “And scoring in a game like that – up and down, crazy, Zlatan being a part of it.... It was a great game for the fans to be a part of and for myself as well.”

Games, especially games like that, do not end until the final whistle. One more goal was there to be scored.

“Jay [Chapman] closed it, finished it off. We needed that,” said Osorio. “With the way the game was going, there was going to be another goal and it wasn't promised that it was going to be for us.”

Though little went to plan in the second half of that season, this night would.

“Fortunately it was us that got it, great strike by Jay – outside of the box and into the corner,” recalled Osorio. “And then his celebration was something that was talked about between us and it was funny – the CR7. We were all very happy that we got the three points that night.”