TORONTO – Rarely, if ever, is a single match ten years in the making.
Toronto FC made sure that everyone, well, nearly everyone, went home happy on Wednesday night following a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in the opening fixture of the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The win ensured the first home playoff game in club history would be a pleasant memory.
“We're very, very, very excited. Very proud in every way. The effort, the commitment, the willingness to accept what the game was and embrace it, go for it, was at such a high level tonight,” said team captain Michael Bradley. ”For tonight, every player, every person who is a part of this club, every fan, every person in Toronto, should enjoy it... then starting tomorrow morning, we're going to get ourselves ready for two tough games against a good team.”
The game began at a blistering pace, with the Union unexpectedly taking the game to TFC on their own turf. But it was Toronto who would take the lead, come the 15th minute, when Philadelphia 'keeper Andre Blake ventured off his line to claim a ball, only for Jozy Altidore to hook it away, straight to Sebastian Giovinco, who scored with a sumptuous finish, kissing his touch off the underside of the bar.
“The speed of the game, the tension of the game was just a different level than any of the regular season games,” remarked Greg Vanney post-match. “The guys were ready for it. That's what caught us last year, we weren't quite ready for it. This year we were.”
Toronto would take that lead into halftime before adding a second, the eventual game-winner, in the 48th minute, scored by hometown hero, Jonathan Osorio – his second goal in as many games.
Somehow very fitting; given the emotion of the night.
“The one thing that we've said to [Osorio] over the course of this week was keep looking for opportunities to get into the box,” said Vanney. “Don't just look for the ball at your feet if there's a gap between center backs. Teams are getting so focused on defending [Giovinco] and Jozy [Altidore] that there should be a hole for you to run through. Penetrate the lines, get into the box, arrive; encouraging him to stay aggressive, look for his opportunities, and in the end, once you get there you got to do something with it.”
And Altidore would cap the night with an 85th minute strike, ending any hopes of a Philadelphia comeback, just when the frayed nerves in the stands could take no more.
“It was a great start, we played a fantastic game,” smiled Giovinco. “When you play games like this, ones that are decisive, it's always amazing. We need to continue like this; we just can't stop.”