TORONTO – You could sense the release of emotion when the ball hit the back of the net.
During the first half of Saturday night's affair at BMO Field, Toronto FC found themselves in a tough stalemate against the Portland Timbers. But just when the crowd might have felt a nagging feeling that it would be one of those night, Justin Morrow stepped up to thump home his fourth goal of the season, and crack open the match in the 58th minute.
Morrow added a second, in the 76th minute, while Victor Vazquez and Marky Delgado also scored in a 4-1 Toronto victory over the visiting Timbers.
“Justin was very aggressive tonight, which is the Justin we're used to seeing all year,” said head coach Greg Vanney post-match. “He loves to attack the back post whenever there is an opportunity. Whenever we get on the end line on the right side he's one of the first ones to get into the box. On [the first goal] he followed a play, kept his run moving forward, and the ball popped out for him.”
“Our mindset for Justin is to be aggressive, keep trying to attack, to force their backline to make plays dealing with him,” continued Vanney. “He was that today, he got two great opportunities and finished them off.”
That second Morrow goal was a perfect example of the relentless swarm with which TFC's attack can overwhelm even the most dogged of opponents.
On the play, Delgado checked in towards Sebastian Giovinco, who dummied on to Vazquez. Vazquez then back-heeled a pass to Jozy Altidore, who looked to play a one-two with Giovinco. Portland's Larrys Mabiala thought he got the touch to interrupt, but there was Morrow lurking for an emphatic finish.
“[The goal-scoring threat from Morrow] is really important,” said Vanney. “A lot of teams are going to say, 'You've got to beat us from the outside, we're not going to let you come through the middle.' The more we can create opportunities wide it makes teams respect the full width of the field, respect our ability to attack outside and come back inside and vice versa.”
Added Michael Bradley, “His ability to move forward into the attack, to cross, to shoot, it's important for us. I joked with him at the beginning of the year that, after Seba and Jozy, we need him to be the third highest goal-scorer.”
Morrow is just that, behind only the two strikers for the team lead.
“With the way we play, what we ask of our wide guys, they have free rein to get forward, be aggressive, to be dangerous in the attacking part of the field,” continued Bradley. “He does that in a really good way.”
Morrow clearly relished both finishes.
“I don't think I was having the easiest time when I came back from the [US men's] national team,” said Morrow, referring to returning from international duty for the Gold Cup in late July. “It's hard to put into words how difficult that is: to have that big moment, winning the Gold Cup, playing for the national team for the first time in four years, and then to come back here [and] transition.
"It wasn't easy for me. It feels like a weight off my shoulders to get the goals tonight, help the team.”