ooh, that's going to hurt.
That's Impact owner Joey Saputo on twitter after the game, and while it's plausible he was talking about the attendance, what with Montrealers seeming immune to the new stadium smell of the renovated Stade Saputo, he was of course talking about something more important, what happened on the pitch. What happened there was that Toronto FC crushed their relatively high flying neighbours 3-0, their largest ever league away win, and one only topped once in cup competitions, a certain 6-1 win against, oh yes Montreal.
After a first few weeks full of entertainment, goals, frustration, minor off pitch kerfuffles and major on pitch collapses, this was the first time it all finally came together for a full 90 minutes under Paul Mariner. There were shaky moments for sure, a back line anchored by Richard Eckersley and Logan Emory was always going to have them, but much like Jeremy Hall after the ball in the face follow up to the boot in the face pictured above, TFC's defence wobbled but didn't collapse. In the end it was a comfortable and well earned victory, plan A worked very well again and for the third straight game, TFC took a lead late into the game and this time they brought it home. Three games unbeaten now, and is the roller coaster finally beginning a new upswing towards hope?
The first half was different from the last couple of games, as aside from a Ryan Johnson chance in the first minute, TFC didn't really get much going, but instead put in a good basic competent defensive display to get to half time 0-0. Even that was far from perfect as after Johnson's chance, Montreal dominated the first 15 minutes, but weren't sharp enough to take advantage as other clubs have recently. Montreal ended the half with 59% possession, with both teams tied at 4 attempts on goal.
For the 3rd straight game, TFC took the lead, this time through Torsten Frings smashing a free kick right at Donovan Ricketts who was somehow unable to get his hands up in time to stop it. I'll embed it here, if only for the fun celebration with Terry Dunfield jumping right on top of Nick Soolsma's head.
That was at 51 minutes and 5 minutes later Julian de Guzman was subbed off, which was a move that contributed massively to the last 2 collapses. It was a bold move and it looked like it might hurt TFC again as what followed was Montreal's best phase of the match, dominating possession, pressuring TFC and pinning them back in their own half, just as Houston and New England did when chasing the game, with plenty of attacks coming at a now more exposed Ashtone Morgan down their right wing.
The defence just about coped with the balls coming into the box, and whereas previously panic has set in, it was a calm, veteran piece of play from Ryan Johnson that finished off that spell. In the 70th minute with Montreal pressing and flares burning in the stands behind Milos Kocic, TFC just about cleared the ball to Johnson near midfield and with no-one with him, he did the smart thing and drew the foul. That gave TFC time to regroup and within a minute, the ball was in the Montreal net, Johnson finishing off after great work from Koevermans to win the ball and a nice pass from Nick Soolsma.
Mariner immediately doubled down on his 'screw you critics' substitutions, bringing on Reggie Lambe, which was the second part of the disastrous de Guzman subbing in the last two games. This time though, there was very little to worry about, Koevermans adding the third himself from another very good cross from Ashtone Morgan in the 78th minute and from there TFC cruised home fairly comfortably.
It was another great performance from Koevermans, with a hand in all 3 goals, and Torsten Frings also had a very good game, keeping Impact dangerman Felipe Martins under control as well as getting his first TFC goal. With Julian de Guzman putting in some good games recently, Paul Mariner has definitely benefited from having the 3 DP's playing up to potential at the same time which injuries meant never really happened for Aron Winter this year.
Can that, and the recent overall improvements under Mariner continue? It's too soon to tell of course, and that defensive 'bossman' (or maybe that should be Bossmanno, as Duane Rollins suggest here that Alessandro Nesta is all lined up to come to TFC with just his international clearance holding things up, though presumably cap room issues have to be sorted out as well) is still very much needed. I'm certainly not confident in the prospect of the current group getting many more clean sheets, the 2.67 goals per game ratio won't continue, and once again, TFC was thoroughly dominated in terms of possession which will surely come back to bite us soon enough, but for now, it's a chance for fans to relax and revel in a brief chance to enjoy someone else being described as a disgrace, and of course the fact that Toronto have still never lost at Stade Saputo. After the season so far, I'll take that.