This isn't a dream: Toronto FC is off to the MLS Cup final. In front of a record crowd of over 35,000 at BMO Field, Toronto FC defeated the Montreal Impact 5-2 in an extra-time thriller. That meant a 7-5 win on aggregate in the Eastern Conference final.
Benoit Cheyrou had the winning goal, but there was no shortage of contributions from TFC players tonight. Armando Cooper, Nick Hagglund, Tosaint Ricketts and Jozy Altidore all scored. Montreal got goals from Dominic Oduro and Ignacio Piatti.
Pushed forward by both a thunderous BMO Field atmosphere and their need for a goal, Toronto FC created chances from the opening whistle. They came within a pass on several occasions of finding the back of the net, but a frantic Montreal was able to hang on at the back.
After weathering the early storm, the Impact did what they do best: turn it the other way. During their only real offensive move of the half, they quickly shifted the ball up the field in a counter-attack that ended in Matteo Mancosu playing Oduro through on goal. The man who scored the opener in the first leg once again struck first for the Impact.
With tensions high, a chippy first half saw referee Jair Marrufo swallow his whistle on a number of occasions. Both sides had reason to be frustrated, Montreal for a mid-air collision between Altidore and Hernan Bernardello and Toronto FC for a moment late in the half where Cooper was brought down in the box.
Despite the crowd becoming audibly concerned with how the match was turning out, Toronto FC continued to push. Just before half-time, they found the Impact's breaking point. A crazy scramble in the box after a corner, including a clearance off the line from a Montreal defender, ended up with the ball on Cooper's foot. He struck it low into the back of the net.
That was when the momentum completely changed. Toronto FC continued to press forward, looking for an all-important second goal to take the lead in the tie on away goals. Jozy Altidore got on the end of another Sebastian Giovinco corner and guided a brilliant header into the near side of the net.
However, Toronto FC has only won once this season when conceding the first goal. The Impact came out looking to continue that trend in the second half, and created an opening of their own in the 53rd minute. That's when Piatti's weak strike dribbled over the line. The Impact once again had the lead on aggregate.
With that, Greg Vanney turned to his signature move when the going gets tough for Toronto late in a match, inserting Tosaint Ricketts into the match. As always, he brought with him positives.
Five minutes after the sub, Toronto FC won another corner. After the initial play broke down, Justin Morrow delivered a second cross into the box. Hagglund rose to meet it with an incredibly athletic header for his first goal of the season to make it 3-2. Everything was tied up, both away goals and the aggregate score.
Toronto FC had plenty of chances to pull ahead once again in the late stages of the match. Some brilliant play from Giovinco along the sidelines allowed him to cross the ball into an open Ricketts. The Canadian's shot was blocked, however. Altidore ran through several Impact defenders shortly thereafter but had his shot denied.
Tied at 5-5, and with each team having scored a pair of away goals the match headed to extra time, and a match that had already been filled with drama was promised even more.
That came when Giovinco went down injured after taking a shot early in the first extra time period. He was forced to be removed from the field and replaced by veteran midfielder Cheyrou.
Well, wouldn't you know it, Cheyrou popped up just moments later and scored the go-ahead goal off of a header in the box. It was his first goal of the season, continuing in the string of firsts Toronto at BMO Field.
Toronto FC wasn't done there either. Ricketts wasn't going to miss out on the fun. The Canadian international found the back of the net for the second time this postseason as the ball dribbled over the line to seal the deal for TFC.
With the win, Toronto FC will advance to their first-ever MLS Cup final. It gets even better: that final will be played right here at BMO Field on December 10.