TORONTO—A home game against one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer proved to be the perfect tonic for Toronto FC’s ailing playoff hopes.
In yet another performance that has made him the leading candidate to claim the league’s MVP award, Sebastian Giovinco scored two goals and set up another to guide TFC to a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday afternoon before 19,692 fans at BMO Field.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and allowed TFC (12-13-4, 40 points) to solidify its hold on fifth place in the Eastern Conference with five games to go in the campaign. The Reds also set a new franchise record for victories in a single season with 12. Colorado (8-11-10) sits at the bottom of the Western Conference.
This was an important win for Toronto, as the top six teams in the East qualify for the playoffs, and the trailing pack had closed the gap in recent weeks. Montreal (33 points), Orlando (32) and New York City FC (31) are all in action later on Saturday, but won’t make up any new ground on Toronto this weekend.
Colorado boasted the best defence in MLS before this game, so Toronto will take great satisfaction from scoring three goals especially after creating countless chances but only finding the net twice in their previous three contests. Saturday was also TFC’s third game in the week, so this was a test of the team’s character, which coach Greg Vanney believes has been unfairly questioned by the media.
“A lot of people are saying a lot things about this team and they proved today they are competitors,” Vanney stated.
He later added: “Anybody who questions the belief of our team, or that we (don’t) believe in what we’re doing, or our desire or any of those things, then guys get pissed off. I heard another comment about our guys don’t like to play with each together. … I think it’s nonsense.”
Vanney said he shared the unattributed comments with his players and he used them to motivate them on Saturday. Vanney admitted he liked seeing them play “with a chip on their shoulders” against Colorado.
Captain Michael Bradley downplayed media criticisms as a motivating factor behind this win.
“I couldn’t care less. The jury can come out at the end of the year. Until then none of it interests me in the least,” Bradley declared.
Something seemed to bother teammate Damien Perquis, though. The defender went on a passionate rant in French aimed directly at Toronto Sun reporter Kurt Larson in the locker-room after the game.
“Don’t look at me like that. You’re not my family,” Perquis said repeatedly to Larson, who was standing across the room.
After Larson left the locker-room, Perquis continued to fire salvos in French at the remaining members of the media. He eventually calmed down, and even shared a laugh with one reporter. Still, it was an unsavoury display from Perquis.
TFC was missing centre back Ahmed Kantari (suspension) and Canadian left fullback Ashtone Morgan (groin injury). Justin Morrow played on the left side of defence, while Perquis partnered Josh Williams in the middle. The other notable change saw Jozy Altidore shift from the right side of midfield (where he’s played in recent games) to his natural forward position.
It looked like it was going to be one of those days for TFC following some early nervy touches by right fullback Marky Delgado and goalkeeper Chris Konopka.
TFC quickly settled down, though, and opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Giovinco went unchallenged as he made a darting run down the middle and fired a low shot from distance that snuck underneath Clint Irwin as he tried to smother the ball. It should have been an easy save for the Colorado goalkeeper; instead he gifted Toronto the lead.
TFC is now a perfect 9-0-0 this season when opening the scoring.
“When we score first we play a slightly more patient game, and we allow our chances to develop. When we get scored on first, we find get in a rush to get the goal back,” Vanney said.
Irwin couldn’t do anything on Giovinco’s second goal just four minutes later. The Italian was fed a cheeky ball by Jonathan Osorio and then curled a beauty from the edge of the box past a diving Irwin and inside the far post. Bellissimo! Giovinco moved past Danny Koevermans on TFC’s all-time scoring list (in all competitions) with his 20th goal.
Giovinco turned provider in the 38th minute, whipping a dangerous corner kick to the near post. Perquis perfectly timed his run and then out-jumped two Colorado players to nod it home.
Colorado fought back and Dillon Serna broke in on goal as he forced Konopka to make a great save. But on the ensuing corner kick, TFC’s goalkeeper rashly came off his line and missed his punching attempt—the ball fell to Dillon Powers who headed it into an empty net in the 40th minute. The goal was the 31st conceded by Toronto in 14 games.
The highlight of an uneventful second half was a 10-minute stretch when the heavens opened up and the rain poured down with biblical fury.
Giovinco was subbed out late in the game after being on the receiving end of some tough tackles, including one instance when he was mugged by a Colorado player. Despite the rough treatment, the Italian took it in stride
“There were a few times where the referee may have gotten it wrong but such is the game of soccer and that is the way it goes. We’ll see what happens next time,” Giovinco said through a translator.
NOTES: Saturday marked the only meeting this season between these clubs. Toronto leads the all-time series against Colorado with eight wins and one draw in 14 games… The Reds have now won seven of eight games against the Rapids at BMO Field… TFC returns to action next Saturday at home vs. the Chicago Fire.