It's incredibly rare that Toronto FC are ever on the right end of a Disney-like finish, but today at BMO Field was one of those rare days. After spending the majority of the match tripping over their own feet Toronto were able to turn it around completely. As a result, they now have their first silverware of the season, the Trillium Cup.
The perfect scripting was true right down to the hero: it was the often vilified Doneil Henry who scored the winner. Jermain Defoe did the rest, bringing the club from behind twice, once from the spot, in their 3-2 victory over the Columbus Crew. Justin Meram and Augustin Viana had the goals for the Crew.
It was Henry’s second goal in as many games, and an incredible return to form after being all but replaced by the man beside him on the day, Nick Hagglund. Whether or not he is able to produce moments like this with regularity remains to be seen, but the mental fortitude to be able to get up after being knocked down (or knocking forwards down in the box) was impressive.
“In your career when you have your negative days you can either let it eat you, like a timid person, or you can stand up like a man and just embrace it,” said Henry. “Just try to work on yourself and better yourself, and understand the game better. I just wanted to come in everyday and be positive.”
For the majority of the match, however, there were very few positives for Toronto, something Ryan Nelsen was quick to point out in his post-match comments.
“To be brutally honest we didn’t play well today,” said Nelsen. “We had a pretty young back four, and a pretty young midfield. But even though we didn’t play well, we stayed in the game and we kept trying.”
An early injury to Bradley Orr meant that the centre of the midfield would be run by Jonathan Osorio and Kyle Bekker. On this day they looked their ages, continually losing the ball in crucial areas of the field. It was a worrying sign at Orr's injury could keep him out until the World Cup break.
The inexperience extended behind them, where a suspension to Steven Caldwell meant it was Henry and Hagglund who defended the centre of the park. They looked vulnerable as well, the absence of their captain clear. Morrow and Bloom looked positive on the flanks, but they were unable to stop the inevitable mistakes.
But it was experience that ultimately made the difference down the stretch for Toronto, and turned yet another match against Columbus into a late game victory. Defoe was excellent, once again doing plenty with the little service that he received. His ability to remain dangerous even when things are going poorly is a tool that this club has never previously had.
“At times it was frustrating,” said Defoe of the early parts of the match. “But you’ve just to get on with it. And I’m delighted to have scored two goals.”
A big part of the reason for Defoe’s second goal was the help from the bench that Nelsen provided. Daniel Lovitz came on early for Bradley Orr and continues to impress, setting up Henry’s winner. But it was Dwayne De Rosario and Gilberto’s insertion that really changed the tempo of the match for Toronto. Gilberto, who wasn’t feeling well and therefore didn’t start, assisted on the second goal.
“The game needed some energy, it needed a spark or passion from the players,” explained De Rosario of the match when he and Gilberto were substituted on. “We tried to provide that, just get the crowd in the game. I want to get back to that lively BMO, that place where it was a fortress and the fans were constantly making noise.”
Towards the end of the match it certainly felt like that fortress was being reconstructed. The crowd came late, but near the end of the match it was one of the loudest of the season, aided by the drama playing out in front of them. The plot of this win will go a long way towards making the fans believe it can happen again, therefore making the atmosphere more positive.
As for the team celebrating their first cup of the season, Henry stressed that their mission was nowhere near accomplished yet, as more silverware is on the line next week.
“We have a cup game on Wednesday that we are looking forward to now,” he explained. “It’s not going to be easy.”