TORONTO – It was a little rough at the start, but a smooth finish.
Toronto FC sealed their spot in the finals of the 2017 Canadian Championship on Wednesday night with a 4-0 victory over Ottawa Fury FC at BMO Field, overturning Ottawa's first leg advantage to advance 5-2 on aggregate.
Stung from the surprise last Tuesday, TFC were troubled by a formidable Fury side who kept the home team off the scoreboard for the opening 40 minutes, nearly padding their lead.
“They came out and had some early chances,” admitted Toronto head coach Greg Vanney post-match. “Between Clint [Irwin] and a couple of defensive plays, we did a good job to keep the game at 0-0.”
Nervous though the spectators may have been, forward Jordan Hamilton would not be drawn on whether that concern infected the players on the pitch: “The first 15-30 minutes. That's the tough part of the game, then things settle down. We were just trying to figure out how to break them down and once we did, we opened them up.”
Indeed they did. Tsubasa Endoh's cross forced an own goal, then the attacker-turned-wingback, who has spent much of the season with TFC II in USL, added a fine header a minute later, all but ensuing Toronto would move on.
“I told [Endoh] at halftime, if he keeps playing like this he's going to get man of the match,” recounted Hamilton. “He was incredible; showed what he can do: on the ball, scoring goals, getting assists... [well, on an] own-goal, kind of.”
Said Endoh: “[It] gives me a lot of confidence, especially scoring.” Though he lamented that he “should have scored two or three times” with all the looks he crafted.
Hamilton too, after a fine substitute performance against Columbus on the weekend, where he scored a goal and assisted another, was involved in both first-half goals before coming off at halftime in a pre-planned move for Sebastian Giovinco.
Getting both players firing, adding ever-more to the depth at TFC, could not have come at a better time for the club, what with the international absences and the injury concerns that linger.
“It's good,” said Vanney. “Tsubasa has been biding his time for an opportunity; same with Jordan. With Jozy [Altidore] away, as many games as we played, it was an opportunity.”
One that, given Tosaint Ricketts was forced off in the first half with an apparent hamstring concern and a match on the near-horizon – away to the New England Revolution on Saturday (7:30 pm ET | TSN1/4 in Canada, MLS LIVE) – may lead to another in short order.
The win over Ottawa sets up a mouth-watering two-legged final, one that has fans and players alike licking their chops.
“It was very important to be able to defend our title against Montreal,” stated Hamilton. “It's always special; looking forward to it."
Vanney meanwhile, called it a “great opportunity.”
“We're playing to solidify our spot in the [CONCACAF] Champions League, they're playing to get back to [it]. Both teams will take it very seriously, which should make for a good series,” continued Vanney. “[They're a] team we have a lot of respect for; it will be exciting.”