TORONTO – Nothing worth winning comes easy.
For the second-straight season, Toronto FC will host the MLS Cup final at BMO Field having secured their spot with a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew SC in Leg 2 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday night.
A scoreless draw in the first leg left each side's Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoff fate uncertain.
Toronto looked to maximize the advantage of a home crowd in the 25th minute when Josh Williams wrestled Drew Moor to the ground inside the Columbus area on a corner kick, only for Zack Steffen to denyVictor Vazquez's penalty kick.
“It was nervy at the end,” said Greg Vanney post-match. “A lot of twists and turns, as all these games have, but we held on, guys made plays, and we got out of there 1-0.”
“We’re happy with that. It was a very gutsy performance by our group; that’s what you need this time of year,” continued Vanney. “It’s never straightforward, especially when you play Columbus, who has a lot of different things, came out with a different lineup, a different setup.”
The resilience within TFC has been a calling card this postseason.
“When everything is on the line, everything to play for, for the team to put together a performance like this,” said Altidore. “[Columbus] is a really good team, stifled us for the first 45. They were defensively good, had a good gameplan. They made it hard on us. But we found a way, like we have so many times this year, to find a big win.”
Since last December, when the club walked off the pitch after losing the final at BMO Field, the club has been talking about hosting the final again.
“It feels amazing [to lift the Eastern Championship trophy and be going back to MLS Cup],” said Altidore. “It's been a long year.”
“From the moment we came back into the locker room after Seattle... that feeling, it was awful,” continued Altidore. “Right then and there preparation started for the next year. I've never been around a group where literally the next morning we were figuring out when to start working out again, what to do, what to eat, everything to get ready for the season.”
“We've been obsessed with getting back to this game. It's no secret,” added Altidore. “We put a lot into this year to win the Supporters' Shield so we could have this exact opportunity. We feel like we owe it to the city, to the fans. They came out and it was disappointing how it finished last year. It's all there for the taking; doesn't matter who we play.”
Toronto will find out their opponent on Thursday night when the Seattle Sounders face the Houston Dynamo in the second leg of the Western Conference Championship (10:30 pm ET; ESPN, ESPN Deportes in US | TSN, TVAS in Canada). With their first Philip F. Anschutz in sight, there's only one thing left to accomplish.
“We know we're there to do one thing: win.”