MONTREAL — Everything came together at the right moment for Toronto FC on Saturday, as returning stars and new additions joined forces to deliver a 2-0 road win over their bitter rivals the Montreal Impact.
“Great win, really important three points,” said captain Michael Bradley. “Obviously it’s not the official halfway point, but in a lot of ways it seems like this was the first game of the second half of the season for us.”
Bradley and Jozy Altidore had freshly returned from their Gold Cup campaign with the US men’s national team. Given the few training sessions under their belt and the Reds’ position in the standings, a win against Montreal is even more of a statement.
“For me, and what I've said to the guys is that this just has to be the foundation of what we’re doing now for the final stretch of the season,” said coach Greg Vanney. “We’ve got to continue to get better and build from this performance.”
The game went under weather delay in the second half mere minutes after Alejandro Pozuelo opened the scoring for Toronto. Despite losing the momentum from the goal, TFC defended their lead and Altidore sealed the victory with a stoppage-time free kick.
“I’ve been itching to get back here; obviously I missed it,” Altidore said. “To come back in a match like this and to score and win, it ticks all the boxes.”
A third member of the USMNT made his way to Toronto with Bradley and Altidore. After three and a half years in Mexico, Omar Gonzalez made his return to MLS in one of the most heated matchups for his new club. Above all else, the center back was happiest with helping TFC post their first clean sheet since May.
“It has to be up there,” said Gonzalez on the quality of his debut. “That’s my goal coming here, just to solidify the backline. I’m very happy with my debut and I’m looking forward to more results like this.”
Paired up with Chris Mavinga at center back, Gonzalez is a crucial addition to TFC in Bradley’s estimation. Heading into a playoff push, Bradley believes his US teammate will play a big role going forward.
“For me it’s simple, there aren’t a ton of forwards who are going to enjoy playing against him,” Bradley said. “It was a great start for him, I’m happy for him, I know he’s been really excited to get here and to get going. We’re going to need him to continue to give us games exactly like that.”
Gonzalez didn’t want to waste any time adapting to his new team and did just that. His partnership with Mavinga allowed only one cross to connect inside the Toronto box. He said TFC can be a threat in every game as long as the defensive corps keep a clean sheet.
“It’s what this team needs, to be solid in the back, because we have the pieces,” Gonzalez said. “We’re going to get opportunities in front of goal, and if we can keep a shutout in the back it gives our guys in the front more opportunities. I’m fine with winning 1-0.”