In a tumultuous match, the Reds overcame a tough Rapids side to take a comfortable position in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The Rapids landed in Toronto with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. Desperation plus momentum (strong of three wins a row) pretty much guaranteed an exciting match.
Vanney’s Reds, on the other hand had a little streak of their own – 8 unbeaten matches in a row – which put them in a pretty comfortable playoff position. A month ago TFC fans would have loved to be in this position, but the nature of the sports fan is to want more. Grinding out points like TFC has done thus far has made Vanney & Co. go from strength to strength and try for a 4th place finish in the hopes to see some playoff action at BMO Field this post-season.
That’s right, because the MLS Playoff structure in 2019 foresees one-game ties hosted in the home of the top finisher, with only the 1st place team getting a bye in the first round. Second will play seventh, third will play sixth and so on.
The set up had the makings of a cracking match, and judging by its start, it kept its promise. Toronto FC hit the Rapids with a 1-2 punch at the 8th and 13th minute (the penalty was called at the 10th minute, but was executed minutes later due to a VAR reveiw) with goals by Endoh and Pozuelo.
The game took a linear theme, with TFC attacking and the Rapids responding with feeble attacks. Until the 29th minute: Nicholson squares a ball inside the box and Rosenberry shoots and collects his rebound to put it past Westberg. And just like that, the game was re-opened.
They say that 2-0 is the most dangerous of leads, and it showed. On 38 minutes, the home side concedes a penalty for a last-man challenge by Westberg on Nicholson, which the TFC keeper redeems with a game-changing save.
The second half gets on lazily with TFC trying to slow down tempo, and the Rapids seemingly happy to oblige. Then, just like Colorado’s first goal, their second seemed to come out of the blue: cross by Nicholson, which Rubio slides in all alone to score. 2-2.
An odd feeling descends onto BMO Field: this game which opened like a blow-out has suddenly slipped away from the Reds cold grip.
Momentum had to shift, and TFC increased the intensity. Gallardo comes in for Endoh who had been cautioned, and gives verve to the Reds on the right side. At the 69th minute, the magical moment everyone had been waiting for
Pozuelo sends Gallardo 30 yards out to the left of Irwin, the Venezuelan centres the ball and Osorio doesn’t hit it clearly but it’s enough to beat Irwin. A pretty build up gives the home side the lead. A lead which could have been doubled on many occasions over the next twenty minutes with Laryea who was shoved down in the box (no VAR review on the play), a point-blank Altidore shot denied by the crossbar, and an Osorio diagonal shot that ends a yard wide of Irwin’s goal.
TFC got off to a flying start, let up and was lucky not to go down. Talent and perseverance saw the Reds go ahead in a game which they should and could have run away with a win by a larger margin. Deserved three points in the end.
“In some ways it doesn’t matter how, you just have to get those three points.” – Greg Vanney, Toronto FC Head Coach
“Anything less than three points is a huge disappointment. The mentality to stick with it and keep going was great.” – Michael Bradley, Toronto FC Midfielder and Captain
“We’re going step-by-step. We have to focus on the playoffs; that’s the most important thing.” – Auro, Toronto FC Defender
“Games are going to be like this towards the end of the year and into the playoffs. We have to be able to manage the emotion of it and we did that tonight.” – Jonathan Osorio, Toronto FC Midfielder
“We know we have to work on a few things, but we’re pleased with the result.” – Quentin Westberg, Toronto FC Goalkeeper
Toronto FC 3, Colorado Rapids 2
Goals: Endoh, Pozuelo, Nicholson, Rubio, Osorio
Toronto FC (4-2-3-1): Westberg, Laryea, Mavinga, Gonzalez, Auro; Endoh, Bradley; Delgado, Pozuelo, Benezet; Altidore.
Colorado Rapids (4-2-3-1): Irwin, Abubakar, Smith, Vines, Rosenberry; Rubio, Acosta; Shinyashiki, Wilson, Nicholson; Kamara
By: Rocco Fasano. Follow Rocco at @CatenaccioNA