TORONTO – After clinching an Eastern Conference spot in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs last weekend, Toronto FC have the opportunity to make it a special five-day stretch.
The Reds head into Wednesday’s second leg of the 2019 Canadian Championship final at BMO Field trailing the Montreal Impact 1-0 on aggregate. Whoever ends the two-legged affair on top will get Canada’s spot in the 2020 Concacaf Champions League.
“It’s a very important game, a very important moment for us to have as a group,” Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono said. “We’re fully committed to it.”
Montreal’s win in this first leg ended Toronto’s unbeaten run in all competitions at nine games, but a 1-1 draw on Saturday at LAFC extended their league unbeaten run to eight matches. It was hailed by coach Greg Vanney as “one of the best games in the history of this club.”
“The intensity was fantastic, the speed with which the ball was moving,” he said. “This group continues, game after game, to find another level as we move towards the playoffs. That’s what needs to happen.”
That five of those matches have been on the road portends well for TFC, especially with this year’s postseason format featuring single-elimination games at the home of the higher seed.
“We’ve shown over this stretch is we can go into any stadium, whether it is LAFC or New York City, and put ourselves in a position to win the game,” Vanney said. “Now we’ve just got to close them out.”
As of late, this club has tended to shine brightest on the biggest stages. Even in an entirely forgettable 2018 MLS campaign, a Decision Day presented by AT&T dismantling of eventual MLS Cup champions Atlanta United provided a reminder.
“The one thing about this team is we always find a way to pull it out,” Bono said. “When the times seem the darkest, the possibilities seem the thinnest, the least likely, we find ways to pull games out. That’s something special about this group, over the core that has been here for a while and the guys that are here now.”
“We just went to the team that is in first place and probably should have taken three points,” said Bono. “There is nothing this team can’t do, no team we can’t play against, no place we can’t play in. That confidence should give us a lot going into Wednesday.”
The last time Toronto trailed after a first leg against Montreal was the 2016 Eastern Conference final. The Impact took a 3-0 lead in the first half of that match, but TFC stormed back to grab two road goals, setting up a second leg at BMO Field where Toronto finished as 7-5 aggregate winners.
So as they head back home looking to clinch a fourth-straight Canadian Championship, TFC are confident. There’s the looming shadow of Montreal being boosted by an away goal, but the Reds are carrying significant momentum into a vital time of year.
“Bringing that confidence into Wednesday will be huge, knowing that we can do it and that we have every tool and every ability to bring home this trophy,” urged Bono. “That’s all that needs to be said.”