After playing Orlando City SC home at BMO Field on Wednesday, the Reds entered Saturday’s match on a short turnaround in CenturyLink’s ever-hostile environment without a score of key contributors, including superstar forward Sebastian Giovinco, playmaker Victor Vazquez, center back Eriq Zavaleta and fullback Steven Beitashour. The four were left back in Toronto with fixture congestion being the cause of their absence.
Instead, the Reds kept their torrid run of form right on rolling, riding a first-half penalty kick from Jozy Altidore that ended in a hard-fought 1-0 triumph that allowed Toronto to depart Seattle with all three points.
“If we wanted, there were a million excuses today,” Toronto captain Michael Bradley told reporters after the game. “Short rest, brutal travel day, early kickoff, turf, a few guys at home, you name it. But good teams, with real mentalities find ways on all types of days to compete and to win.
“This is a big win. Momentum counts for a lot in this league and we had momentum coming in. Now, picking up another three points against a team like that in this stadium, it keeps us moving forward.”
After starting the season 1-1-4, the result marked TFC’s fourth consecutive victory, starting with their 3-1 triumph over the Chicago Fire on April 21, affording them a temporary hold on both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield leads with 19 points.
Toronto head coach Greg Vanney echoed Bradley, saying Saturday’s victory carried a little bit of extra luster given the circumstances and the strong outing from his depth players that offset the absence of some of his regular starters.
“This is a different type of performance today,” Vanney said. “When you come on the road, after a midweek game, into a stadium like this, against a team that’s good like this team is, it’s a different type of win. It’s one that shows that we’re not just a good team. We’ve got a gritty team that, in tough circumstances, can really gut out a win.”
The match was the first between the sides since their MLS Cup bout in December that saw Seattle hand Toronto a heartbreaking defeat in penalty kicks, an added bonus that Vanney described a moment that his team might be able to look back on as symbolic down the road.
“It’s nothing compared to the final, so not to throw anything there,” Vanney said. “But our message during a tough week was come try take a little bit something back if you can, in terms of motivation. I think maybe that helps a little when you’re grinding things out at the end.
“I think getting result like that in the champion’s stadium, it means something. I think in a long season, there’s few defining moments. For us, this could be one of those.”