Toronto FC advance to conference semi-final on away goals in scrappy affair
By: Joseph Amodio
The Toronto FC is now one step closer to an MLS championship after they beat the New York Red Bulls and advanced to the eastern conference finals where they will play the Columbus Crew.
TFC didn’t leave the two matches against the Red Bulls unscathed, though. They will be missing their top strikers, and arguably their best players in Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, due to suspensions. Giovinco picked up a yellow card in each of the two matches and Altidore got into two physical altercations with Sacha Kljestan, once in the first half and again during half-time in the tunnel.
Head coach Greg Vanney was disappointed with the call and believed Altidore was provoked by the Red Bulls.
“Whatever happened happened on our side of the tunnel. They shouldn’t have been on our side of the tunnel. From what I heard Jozy got ambushed so we’ll see where that goes,” Vanney said following the match.
Following the game Altidore said he was simply sticking up for himself.
“He followed me in the tunnel and he pushed me. He found out the hard way he shouldn’t do something like that. I apologize for my actions but I had to defend myself,” he said.
The referee handed out six yellow cards in the matchup, two for TFC players Michael Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco for arguing to the referee who disallowed two legal goals by TFC’s Jonathan Osorio, and then later in the half from Victor Vasquez.
This playoff round was TFC’s first since they lost in a penalty shootout to the Seattle Sounders in the 2016 MLS finals. Sounders goalie Stephen Frie made a save considered to be one of the best of all-time in an MLS final on a header from Altidore. Vanney believed if that header went in, TFC would have lifted the trophy instead of Seattle.
“It was one of the great saves that I’ve seen because that goal to me ends the game. I think we win if we do that because we had them in lockdown. He saved the game for them,” Vanney said.
While the loss was difficult for Vanney and his team, he said they didn’t come out of a hard-fought playoffs completely empty handed.
“I think there’s a lot of lessons for this group to take away from this run that will only make us better as we go into next year. We are just getting started,” the coach said.
TFC’s 2017 campaign has demonstrated that the team was indeed just getting started, as Vanney said. The Reds are coming off not only their best season, but one that has gone unmatched throughout the leagues history by any team. The FC set a record this year for finishing a season with the most points. Former Juventus striker Sebastian Giovinco scored a marvelous free kick in the last 10 minutes of Toronto’s final regular season match to draw Atlanta United, eclipsing the 19-year-old regular season record by one point set in 1998 by the L.A. Galaxy.
The Columbus Crew will pose a new challenge to Toronto, a team missing their top two strikers. The Crew eliminated New York City FC 4-3 on aggregate.
TFC and The Columbus Crew will clash in another two-legged match on Nov. 21 and Nov. 29.