TFC still not satisfied despite clinching playoff spot

• San Jose Earthquakes 0, Toronto FC 4 (Vazquez 26’, Altidore 48’, 64’, Osorio 66’)
• TFC unbeaten in 10 games, with seven wins
• Giovinco subbed out at half due to quad tightness

TORONTO – Toronto FC is going to the playoffs for a third consecutive season.

Ho-hum.

It wasn’t that long ago that a playoff berth was viewed as the Holy Grail by TFC, something far beyond the reach of a franchise that stumbled and bumbled its way through its first eight seasons in Major League Soccer, lurching from one embarrassment to the next. Now, the playoffs are a mere formality, a given, the minimum requirement.

The Reds officially booked their spot in this year’s post-season following a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday evening before 29,050 fans at BMO Field thanks to a brace from Jozy Altidore. Victor Vazquez and Jonathan Osorio also scored for the home side.

Saturday’s win, coupled with the Montreal Impact’s 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution, allowed Toronto to officially clinch a playoff berth with six games remaining in the regular season.

Yawn. Whatever. Moving on. The Reds have much bigger fish to fry.

TFC tops the overall MLS standings with 59 points, and looks a sure bet to win the Supporters’ Shield as the team that finishes the regular season in first place – and with that honour comes the added bonus of home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Reds are also on pace to eclipse the record for the most points in a single season (68) held by the 1998 L.A. Galaxy.

Toronto is now undefeated in 10 matches (with seven wins), and it extended its unbeaten run at home to 15 regular-season games (with 12 wins), a streak that dates back to last October.

It’s amazing to think about how far this team has come in such a short period of time. Remember 2012, when they lost their first nine matches and only won five times all season? Those days are long gone, folks. Today, wins are expected every time TFC takes to the field. Anything less is justly viewed as a disappointment.

Toronto is on the cusp of the greatest campaign in MLS history, but it was all business among the players in the locker-room after Saturday’s contest.

“We feel good about where we are, what we’ve done. But there isn’t one person who is satisfied. Not even close,” captain Michael Bradley promised.

“We have to keep going. There’s six games left, 18 points on the table. We want to take as many of those as possible. We want to win the Supporters’ Shield, and as soon the regular season is done we’re going to regroup and make sure that [we’re ready for the playoffs].”

Coach Greg Vanney was equally modest when asked to address TFC’s dominant form over the last two months.

“As the season has progressed we’ve got better, and that’s been our goal. Today was another opportunity for us to get out there [and to] play. We’ll assess it and see what we can learn out of this game to try to take another step forward,” Vanney stated.

Vanney only made one line-up change, swapping in Steven Beitashour for Nicolas Hasler at right wingback. It was Beitashour’s first start since late June when he underwent surgery on his pancreas. Top scorer Sebastian Giovinco started the match, but was subbed out at halftime as a precautionary move due to quad tightness.

Like many games this season, this one was never in doubt. Toronto asserted itself from the opening kickoff, dominating possession and pinning back San Jose for long stretches with its quick ball movement. But for a lack of final touch in the box, the Reds could have easily enjoyed a three-goal advantage over the hapless ‘Quakes going into the break.

The breakthrough came midway through the half when Beitashour delivered a cross from the right flank into the box that San Jose goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell misjudged. After flailing at the ball, it fell to Vazquez who controlled it, side-stepped a defender and slotted it home. Tarbell’s error was a gift, but Vazquez did well to keep his composure and finish off the chance.

Toronto iced the game early in the second half. Vazquez was allowed too much time on the ball, and he took full advantage, delivering a defence-splitting pass into the box that Altidore latched onto before angling a shot past Tarbell and into the far corner.

Altidore added a second, scoring a header off a cross from Beitashour that slipped underneath Tarbell. Osorio compounded San Jose’s misery moments later, going on a probing run before beating Tarbell with a wicked shot from the top of the box.

Darwin Ceren was red carded for a rash foul on Marky Delgado, forcing San Jose to play the final 18 minutes with 10 men.

NOTES: The all-time series between Toronto and San Jose is tied, with five wins apiece and four draws… TFC returns to action next weekend with a road game against the L.A. Galaxy… Earlier on Saturday, Sloane Stephens won the women’s title at the U.S. Open final. Stephens is dating Altidore, who found out about the result during the course of the match vs. San Jose.

TFC Pitchside will provide Toronto FC supporters with an inside look into their favourite obsession Monday nights at 11 pm ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Call it an all-access pass for all things MLS brought to you by co-hosts Dan Riccio, Thomas Michalakos and producer Amil Delic. You'll hear from the biggest names around the club, and the MLS. You'll also get reviews and previews of every TFC game with reports from Pitchside at training and on game days at BMO Field. The Six is about to get done!

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