FRISCO, Texas — Julian de Guzman was the last Toronto FC player to leave the dressing room after Tuesday’s 3-0 victory over FC Dallas put the Reds into the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League.
He was still soaking up the importance of the result.
“You could see that the guys knew how important this game was,” the Toronto-born midfielder said in the quiet as he prepared to join his teammates on the bus. “Just leading up to it, it played out well for us. The guys were fit, healthy. Mentally, they were psyched up for probably the biggest game of Toronto’s history.”
The victory in Dallas took on added importance after Toronto failed to reach the MLS Cup playoffs for the fifth time in their five-year history. By advancing beyond the CCL group stage for the first time, the club gave the fans back home – as well as the ones that made the trip to Pizza Hut Park – a little something to cheer about.
“Just seeing the fans that came down was impressive,” de Guzman said. “Just imagine what it’s like back home. I’m sure it’s all good things and I can’t wait to get back and be a part of it.”
Toronto’s season ends Saturday at BMO Field against New England. And while there will be no playoffs, there will be CCL quarterfinals to look forward to in March thanks to a committed effort against a team that had beaten the Reds 1-0 three times in all competitions this season.
“I think the guys also did a great job of playing well in their roles and at the same time performing, and you could see the result in the three points we needed desperately,” de Guzman said. “I’m very proud of each individual on the team and the commitment and this is something great to look forward to next season.”
De Guzman, a holding midfielder by trade, showed on Tuesday that he can also play a part in the attack. The 30-year-old set up assist man Joao Plata, who then laid it off to Danny Koevermans to score the important go-ahead goal in the first half.
“Danny Koevermans started the run,” de Guzman said. “I was available in the midfield, so once that pass came to me, I knew Plata was on his way, so just to get it to him in that space. ... He started the threat in their box and Koevermans was able to put the finishing touches and it was great for us.”
The goal was only one example of not only how everyone contributed, but how the team is coming along.
“It was a complete performance by everyone on the team,” de Guzman said. “It’s something that TFC has been working towards for a long time.”