Greg Vanney didn't dance around the question, he and his players knew just how much of a must win match this was. Against a Chivas USA side that the TFC manager described as "against the ropes", nothing short of three points would be good enough for a team desperately trying to plug the holes that have been sinking their ship for months.
Luckily for Toronto, three turned out to be the number of the day: three players returning from injury resulted in three goals from three different players and got the team the points they so desperately needed. It was Gilberto, Jackson and Luke Moore who earned the squad their first home victory since July 17.
The 3-0 win was also Greg Vanney's first as Toronto FC manager, and he definitely earned it. There are very few matches this season where one would describe the team as well prepared tactically. But on this occasion the tactical victory was even bigger than the one of the field. This was particularly true of set pieces, where Toronto dominated.
"We scored on two corner kicks, both of which we set up this week in preparation for this match," explained Vanney. "Both of them worked out. So you like sometimes when you [practice] things during the course of the week and they come off from the training ground to the match."
The new manager wasn't without help, however, he had the major benefit of the aforementioned players returning from injury. This was most prevalent on the backline, where Captain Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow came back into the lineup. The result was the first clean sheet since August 2, and only two shots from Chivas USA were on target.
"It was great to have [Caldwell and Morrow] back, to have a backline that feels normal," said Nick Hagglund. "It was nice to hear [Caldwell's] voice commanding people in front of him."
The return of Jonathan Osorio was also massive for a midfield that has been out of sync for a long while. Michael Bradley has played his best soccer all season beside the Canadian, and this match was no different. He played a role in both set piece goals, and looked comfortable and confident playing deeper in the midfield than usual. The two central midfielders had their quality play complemented by Daniel Lovitz and Jackson out wide, both of whom may have had their best performance in a TFC uniform.
Jackson's goal, and performance, had a massive asterisk beside it, however, resulting from the red card he picked up in the 63rd minute. It was the kind of moment of indiscretion that has been all too common for the Brazilian over his career. Frustrated with not getting a foul called, on a tackle by Nigel Reo-Coker, he proceeded to chase him down and tackle him. While on the ground, Reo Coker pushed at his head, Jackson retaliated with a kick and a slap before standing up and getting into a slapping and shoving contest with the Chivas midfielder. Both were subsequently sent off. It will certainly result in a one game suspension, but will probably be even more.
"He knows that that's not a good moment for the team," said Vanney. "So we'll have to deal with it and see what happens. But we need all the players to manage their emotions because this is a critical time of year and we need everybody."
Another negative for Toronto FC was a tussle between Bradley and Caldwell that carried itself into the dressing room after the match. This resulted in an impromptu players meeting where Caldwell could be seen yelling passionately. But Caldwell was quick to downplay its significance going forward.
"That's just what happens in football teams," said Caldwell. "We're passionate people and we both want to win, and we both want the best for the team."
One question that will inevitably be brought up is how this victory should be viewed considering this year's Chivas USA side are one of the worst in recent league history. Toronto should take nothing for granted, but belittling this result also distorts a huge positive step that the team deserved and earned. Who knows whether today's performance would be good enough to beat the Portland Timbers next week. But there were certainly elements of the game that indicate it is a distinct possibility.
In essence, this must win match has only given the team the opportunity to play in more must win matches coming up. This win doesn't put Toronto back in a playoff spot, but it certainly puts the team in a good position to earn one. The Toronto FC ship has stopped sinking, but there is a lot of work left to be done to get it above water.