TORONTO—They’ve waited nine years for this moment. What’s 11 more days?
Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored to lift Toronto FC to a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union on a very wet and windy Saturday evening before 18,332 fans at BMO Field, a result that puts the Reds within touching distance of qualifying for the post-season.
A loss or draw by Orlando City against the Montreal Impact later on Saturday night would have saw Toronto officially clinch a playoff berth for the first time in franchise history. But Orlando won 2-1 in Florida, postponing TFC’s celebrations at least until Oct. 14 when they host the New York Red Bulls—a Toronto win or draw in that contest would secure a playoff berth.
And even if it doesn’t happen on Oct. 14, it will happen. Patience, folks. Patience. It’ll be worth it.
TFC (14-13-4) won their third straight game for only the second time this season and received strong performances from all three of their designated players—a positive sign for the Reds as they prepare to make their playoff debut.
Jonathan Osorio was outstanding for Toronto, the diminutive midfielder wreaking havoc with his quickness and deft touches, making a very strong case that he should be recalled into Canada’s national team. Also encouraging was the play of centre backs Josh Williams and Damien Perquis, the later continuing to show very good form during this Toronto homestand after some laboured performances earlier in the campaign.
And then there was Altidore, who had one of his best games for the Reds, linking up well with Giovinco, effectively holding up the ball, and using his size to fight off defenders.
“I thought he was outstanding,” coach Greg Vanney said. “Jozy’s involvement in just being dangerous and bringing [teammates] into the game was excellent.”
The loss officially eliminated Philadelphia (9-16-7) from post-season contention. A two-goal win over one of the worst teams in MLS doesn’t sound that impressive. But it was never close and the score flattered the Union, who offered little on the day and were completely played off the park by TFC.
“It was a big moment for the team… I thought we had one of our most solid beginning-to-end performances,” Vanney stated.
Captain Michael Bradley felt TFC “played the game on out terms for the most part, which was very positive.”
Vanney made only one lineup change from the past two games, slotting Brazilian Jackson at right fullback at the expense of Marky Delgado. The move snapped Delgado’s streak of 17 consecutive starts, although he did enter the game at the start of the second half—Robbie Findley was subbed out with a groin injury.
Playing with the wind at their backs, TFC dominated the first half—it was all one-way traffic, with the Reds enjoying close to 62 percent possession, and Philly failing to register a single shot.
It took some good fortune, though, for Toronto to break the deadlock in the 28th minute. Altidore did well to earn a foul outside the penalty area, and Giovinco’s free kick deflected off Union defender Raymond Gaddis and nestled inside the far post. It was Giovinco’s 21st goal of the year, putting him one behind league-leader Kei Kamara of the Columbus Crew. The goal capped a special day for Giovinco, who earlier was named to Italy’s roster for a pair of upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers.
The Italian nearly scored a second goal off a free kick later in the half, only to see goalkeeper Andre Blake athletically palm it away.
Toronto came out strong to start the second half, as Giovinco teed up Altidore inside the box. Again, Blake made a great save, getting down low to tip Alitdore’s attempt around the post.
Altidore wouldn’t be denied, bagging his 12th goal of the season when he expertly brought down a Delgado cross from the flank, and then beat Blake with a composed finish in the 63rd minute.
Steven Vitoria scored on a looping header off a free kick played into the box just three minutes later to pull a goal back for Philly. An own-goal by the Union in injury time sealed the win for Toronto.
NOTES: Toronto won all three games against Philadelphia this season… The Union still lead the all-time series with six wins and four draws in 15 meetings… TFC has a bye next weekend, and won’t return to action until Oct. 14 when they host the New York Red Bulls. Sebastian Giovinco will miss that game as he’ll be on international duty with Italy…