FRISCO, Texas – At halftime on Tuesday night, the message in the Toronto FC locker room was simple: The next goal was vital.
TFC may have been up 1-0 on FC Dallas, but they knew they were the team that needed to score it, and not try to sit on the lead as they have before only to meet with disappointment.
“That’s been our problem since I’ve been here for the last half of the year,” forward Ryan Johnson explained to MLSsoccer.com after the match. “Just closing out games.”
Johnson, who joined Toronto FC from San Jose in a July 14 trade, helped make that happen by creating the type of goal that comes as players become more familiar with each other, something that the revamped Toronto side has experienced.
In the 61st minute, Joao Plata gave Johnson the ball with a nifty back-heel pass. The Jamaican international kept the it until the right moment before returning it to Plata, who was unmarked in the middle of the box. The Ecuadorean’s right-footed shot went past Kevin Hartman to make it 2-0, and Toronto were well on their way to their first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals next March.
“That right there just comes with time playing with each other,” Johnson said. “You know what each other is going to do, where each other wants the ball. Just on the pass, I know Plata is going to want to the ball to his feet. I just waited until the opportunity was there, got the ball to his feet, a good first touch and an easy finish for him.”
Plata also scored the third goal nine minutes from time, bringing the final scoreline to 3-0.
“The second goal was what we needed,” Johnson said. “Look what happened. It opened up more space for us to score the third goal. That’s exactly what happened. For us going forward, this is a lesson we need to teach ourselves.
"When we do go up one goal, we can’t sit back and just try to bend and pray we’re going to pull out the 1-0 win and we have to keep on pushing forward and finish teams and put games away.”
Thanks to Johnson, Plata, Danny Koevermans & Co., they’ll get a chance to keep trying next spring.