There appears to be a light at the end of the dark tunnel that has been the start to the 2015 season for Toronto FC. Up until now it had been far from home, and even further from promising as the team lost four straight games on the road after winning their season opener in Vancouver.
Then came tonight, and the 2-0 victory over Orlando City SC that changed everything. It is easy to overestimate the importance of Toronto's second victory of the season, but it's also impossible to consider it unimportant. Seven points from seven games to start the season was the unspoken goal, they now have a chance to do that.
It was Jozy Altidore that made it happen, with his best game in TFC red and potentially also in his MLS career. He had both goals for Toronto FC, his second brace of the season. Both were pure class, and reminiscent of last week's display by Sebastian Giovinco.
For the past four games Altidore had been invisible: tracking back too far and failing to contribute much near the net. Impressively, he was all over the final third today without stopping his defensive efforts. His work ethic was commendable, if not sensational, as he ran for the full 90 minutes.
Altidore was even able to score a goal off of a free kick, although it was quite different from the Giovinco's curler of yesterweek. Instead it was a quick free kick that allowed the two new Designated Players to orchestrate a quick one-two before the American scored. After realizing the referee was allowing them, quick free kicks became a part of Toronto's strategy all night that ultimately paid off.
Where Toronto really won this game, however, was in the midfield as Michael Bradley and Benoit Cheyrou were able to overcome Kaka after some early scares. The communication between the two is improving immensely, as they rarely left gaps behind them while contributing to the attack.
Toronto's midfield still doesn't seem completely comfortable in possession, as they only had 35.1 per cent. But there were signs of improvement especially, as aforementioned, in the centre. Toronto didn't try to be as fancy, or as direct, and slowed down the game which made it harder for Orlando to counter attack.
Behind them, the backline was night and day from what it has been from the rest of the season. It looked calm and composed, dealing with almost all of Orlando's attacks exceptionally. When Orlando did get through Joe Bendik stood tall in goal.
For once Ashtone Morgan and Justin Morrow, the fullbacks, sat back in defense, and this seemed to make Toronto's backline significantly harder to break down. Greg Vanney appears to be discovering his tactical faults, at least this one.
In a week where it was suggested, if unfounded, that Vanney could be fired if he did not win tonight's game, he has proven that he is still capable of effectively managing this team. His selection and strategy on the day worked out to perfection, and he came through under pressure.
The question that remains, however, is how much of this was Toronto's doing, and how much was a second straight off night for a new club who hasn't found their identity yet in Orlando. The answer is likely half and half, and at this stage of the season that should be good enough for Toronto. Three points almost always are.
After next Saturday, Toronto will have emerged from this long tunnel of a road trip with more than a few visible wounds. However, tonight's win gives them a chance to remain standing at the end. Hopefully, when the spotlight of Toronto hits them this trip will have made them stronger.