TORONTO– Toronto FC is back to the second round of the playoffs with a 5-1 victory over D.C. United in extra time. For the third time in four years, the Reds of Toronto FC will be competing in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the MLS Playoffs.
The scoring started in the 32nd minute, with Marky Delgado‘s third goal of the MLS season. A ball that was in his wheelhouse after D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid failed to catch Alejandro Pouzelo’s shot.
The goal came at an opportune time, as Toronto FC started the match off sluggishly. Early in the match, D.C. United was controlling the possession, and taking advantage of Toronto’s turnovers in their own end. But luckily for Greg Vanney‘s squad, none of those mistakes translated into any goals given up.
In the second half, it was Toronto who won the possession battle. The ball movement was clean and for the start of the second half, a large proportion of the action occurred in the DC United zone.
But in the 64th and 65th minutes consecutively, it was Quentin Westberg who became the star of the Toronto FC lineup. Back to back shots that were in Wayne Rooney‘s wheelhouse, Westberg stepped up and prevented the ball from going in the net. The crowd of 25,331 at BMO Field erupted. Before their very eyes, Westberg was becoming a Toronto FC playoff hero. In the 77th minute, Ola Kamara was in all alone with only Westberg to beat. Westberg once again denied Kamara the chance to tie the game.
“Quentin was positionally in the right places tonight,” said Vanney. “He made a few saves that were critical, and he’s had a fantastic season after playing in France.”
Tying Goal Does Not Bother Toronto FC
The game was in Toronto’s grasp until the 93rd minute, when Lucas Gonzalez took advantage of the defensive breakdown, tying the game at one apiece. Adding another chapter to the narrative of Toronto FC’s season of finding difficult ways to win.
While many of the players expressed their frustration in between regulation and extra time, Vanney gathered his guys, instilling the belief that the game was still theirs to win.
“I told the guys to be aggressive,” said Vanney. “I said for them to reshape the formation into a 3-5-2, something we have done in the past. We showed a lot of mental toughness right off the bat in extra time.”
“We gathered ourselves together,” said Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio. “This game isn’t over, we have 30 minutes left. If we kept playing the game we were playing, we could come out on top.”
The 3-5-2 formation clearly paid off for Vanney. In extra time, it was two Canadian players who would etch themselves into Toronto FC lore.
Toronto FC Demonstrates Depth and Resiliency Without Altidore, Gonzalez
The first was Richie Laryea, born in Toronto, Ontario, who came off the bench in the 81st minute. Laryea only had one goal this season for Toronto FC and was under an MLS minimum salary contract.
Contrary to expectations, Laryea provided a huge jolt of offense for the Reds. He would get the scoring going for Toronto FC in the 93rd minute, firing a shot in the bottom right-hand corner of the net. It was followed up moments after by Canadian Jonathan Osorio, who would score two consecutive goals off his blazing shot. Nick DeLeon, also coming off the bench, would add in another goal, showcasing his brilliant shot that would end up in the top right-hand corner of the net.
“Getting the goal was a cherry top for a game that we deserved to win,” said Laryea after the game.
Without Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez due to injury, it speaks to the immense depth this Toronto FC team has. Fully on display again tonight was their “never give up” mantra that Vanney has been preaching all season long.
“We have great depth, who can come on and impact the game in a positive way,” said DeLeon. “Many of us have had opportunities to generate offense. It’s a deep run and it’s what you need to have a long run in the playoffs.”
Next Up: New York City FC on Short Rest
With Toronto FC’s victory, it continues its unbeaten streak to 11 games. The Reds are now 5-0-1 in their last six games at home. Toronto FC will now take on New York City FC on the road this coming Wednesday, October 23rd. A quick turnaround that Vanney was quick to voice his displeasure.
“I’m not a fan of it,” said Vanney on the new rule change to condense the MLS Cup Playoffs. “Teams should have a week of rest before their next game, given that it is single elimination.”
But Toronto FC is not afraid of the challenge. Despite the adversity of injuries and short rest, expect Vanney’s squad to be ready to compete at the optimal level. As Vanney said, it is the “big games that bring out a level of competitiveness and scrappiness that our squad loves to show when it matters most.”
In the span of one week, BMO Field has seen Canada Soccer break its drought of 34 years in a victory over Team USA.
And now tonight, the Reds of Toronto FC marching onto the next round of the playoffs, with a wave of enthusiasm and confidence coming with them.
“We haven’t even started yet,” said Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley. “We can get to another level as a team.”