If Toronto FC return to play in MLS Cup this season, Sunday night's 3-1 win over Columbus Crew SC in a new, not-yet-familiar, temporary Connecticut home will likely be pivotal. Not only did TFC beat the top team in MLS to move to within two points of the Supporters' Shield lead, but they did so after giving up an own goal to go down 1-0 at halftime.
TFC head coach Greg Vanney noted after the match that the comeback was indicative of how well his team can play. Though he wouldn't say that the win was a "statement win" in the traditional sense, he did note that it made an important statement for an important audience.
"What I care about, honestly, is the statement that it makes inside of our team. Tonight, the statement was, again, emotionally, when we stay in the right place, we work together, we stay positive, and we stay connected, we can be really good. If we're not, we can be our own worst enemy and that's not what we want.
"That's the message that I want to be loud and clear, and that's in our locker room," he added. "I don't really care what everybody else thinks. The message in our locker room was clear. They responded to it in the second half, and they proved in a lot of ways what they're capable of doing when we're all in the right spot, and so that's the only message I care about tonight was we got three points, and the response was fabulous."
Highlights: Toronto FC 3, Columbus Crew SC 1
Vanney employed some tactical shifts that created better spacing, allowed right back Richie Laryea more freedom down the right flank, and midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo better opportunities to operate. But as he reflected after the match, the emotional adjustments the team made might have been the most important.
"It doesn't matter what the structure is if your mind's not in the right place and you're letting things frustrate you," Vanney said.
"A lot of it was just emotionally, we were carrying our frustrations from one play to the next," he noted. "If something happened, it was impacting people, and there was a lot of that going on. If there was a call that we didn't like, it was impacting us. Then our reactions were leading into us getting disconnected, guys showing their emotions on the field, going from working together to maybe walking at the wrong times.
"We weren't a cohesive unit," he observed. "I think it just was frustrations for a lot of different reasons, and things that were going on. We just needed a reset."
Laryea, who had a stellar night, remarked on how important the come-from-behind win was for the team's confidence.
"It's a huge confidence boost for sure, because this is a team [Columbus] everyone's speaking about right now," he noted. Laryea certainly noticed how differently they were able to play once Vanney put the match into perspective at halftime.
"He reminded us it was just 1-0, it wasn't the end of the world, and we have good players. Also, that we've had a pretty long nine days and that maybe it was fair that we weren't as sharp in the first half. Then we said to each other we needed to give it our all in the second half, and that's exactly what we did."