Toronto FC won the battle tonight against the Montreal Impact, but lost the war going down on away goals in the Voyageurs Cup Semi-Finals. A late goal from ex-Toronto FC forward Dominic Oduro salvaged the game for the Impact, as their 3-2 loss on the night meant a 3-3 aggregate score.
Up until the late goal it was an excellent performance from Toronto as a team. They did exactly what Greg Vanney said that they needed to after Sunday's toothless loss to the Houston Dynamo: they took control of the game and actually looked like the home side.
"The task for the guys today was win the game," said Vanney post match. "To set an identity for ourselves at home, to find some urgency and to position themselves to move forward."
Toronto were able to accomplish the majority of those goals, the only one they failed to obtain was the last one which unfortunately was also the most important. However there are positives, particularly with the designated players.
Jozy Altidore had his best performance in a Toronto shirt, he scored the opening goal and then added two well worked assists. So far in his career with the reds he has proven to create twice as many chances for himself and others than Jermain Defoe ever did.
Giovinco was all over the field today, especially in the second half where his skill on the ball created chance after chance for Toronto. The Impact took notice, and took several liberties on him throughout the match.
"I'm totally irritated at the fact that the referees don't do a job, which is to protect some of the key guys on the field," says Vanney. "That's [who] people come to see and those guys have to be [protected]."
It sounds a lot like what ex-Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen had to say last season after team's got overtly physical with Defoe. However, Vanney does have a point: Giovinco was consistently abused, including a tackle after which his already hurting foot was left bloodied.
To round out the positives, the attendance was an announced 21,069 and the atmosphere was the best it had been for a Voyageurs Cup game in years, despite the expanded stadium. Hopefully this is a trend that continues as clubs play their starters in the competition.
Why Toronto won't continue in this competition is largely down to their backline. Chris Konopka once again had a decent game, particularly in the first half, but the men in front of him did not. This was especially true on the Kenny Cooper goal, where the Impact had far too much time in TFC's box.
"Set piece marking was an issue throughout the game," defender Eriq Zavaleta acknowledged after the match. "We were fortunate to only give one up on that."
He knows that giving up goals in general has been a problem for the team, but thinks that the team's defending is trending upwards in terms of where they were at the start of the season and how they have handled a number of problems.
Both Zavaleta and Collen Warner feel this match will give the team momentum going into Saturday's game, where a strong New England Revolution lay waiting.
"It's great to score three goals for sure," Warner said of his team's offensive outburst. "Especially the players that scored them, it was great to see Jozy and Seba get a goal. We can take that forward and work on the defensive side of the ball."
The team evidently wasn't without regrets, however, bowing out of the competition on away goals meant a lot of disappointed faces after the match.
"At the end of the day our team's a very competitive team and we wanted to move on in this tournament so it's a little bit disappointing," said Warner.
While this season for Toronto was never going to be measured on how they did in the Voyageurs Cup, the loss is another disappointment to add to the season's growing pile. Hopefully, however, the victory won't be meaningless and Toronto can use the offensive confidence going forward.