TORONTO – It was not the result envisioned, but still there were valuable lessons learned as Toronto FC all but clinched a berth in the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs for the second consecutive season on Sunday evening with a 3-3 draw against the New York Red Bulls.
“I'm very proud of the character of this group, to be able to fight back twice after some really bad mistakes,” stated Greg Vanney with his first words post-match. “The interesting part is [the team are] disappointed we got a draw because they want the Supporters' Shield, to get out in front of the Eastern Conference... they wanted to win today.”
“It wasn't exactly what we set out for, but it's a sign that this group is different from [those] that came before.”
But the red-hot Jozy Altidore would not be kept off the score sheet, netting two in the last 22 minutes, including a stunning free-kick, to pull his side level. Altidore now has eight goals in his last nine league matches.
“We know how important Jozy is to us. His value to our team is immeasurable; in terms of personality, his size and work rate, everything that he brings is massive,” said Vanney. “We are a much better team when Jozy is on the field.”
One word that summed up the night for Altidore?
“It was a tough game, it was a playoff game. The atmosphere, the tempo, [the opponent]. To stay in this game, to come back get a point in the end showed a lot of guts,” said Altidore.
Rather than focus on his scintillating form, Altidore nodded his cap to his American teammate and captain, Bradley, who stoked the fires of the side with his goal and overall play.
“It was a huge goal from a guy that leads us,” said Altidore. “When we came back in [at half], everybody was riled up, ready to push on. We knew that we were still in this game, that our chances were going to come.”
Understandably, the celebrations at the achievement of a spot in the postseason were muted; non-existent even.
“Last year, what it meant to the club and the city... it was a special night,” recalled Bradley. “This year, everybody should feel good about officially being in, but the way things have gone, when we look at ourselves, we feel there is a lot more out there for us. It's important to take the time and be proud of little things along the way. Tonight is the first step, but we still have a lot of work to do to get to where we want to go.”