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Toronto FC’s substitutes can rise to the occasion again

Why Seattle should be worried about the options Greg Vanney has it his disposal late in games.

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Montreal Impact at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’ve had some time to finally digest what we witnessed last week, may I be the first to say, ‘We’re not worthy!’ Actually, Toronto FC fans more than anyone else probably are (there, I said it), but joking aside, wow… what a performance.

Of course, many of us here at Waking the Red are going to be somewhat biased, but I can honestly say as a football fan I have not seen a game that exciting in quite some time. Not to beat down on Major League Soccer or anything, but it would be safe to assume that few of us expected that - at least I didn’t. I knew the final leg of the 401 Derby would be exciting, but a game of that intensity was a treat and an honour to watch.

As a TFC fan, I can’t believe the day has finally come. It’s still kind of weird to think that this is actually happening, and there are many people to thank for that. The club has had a historic run to the MLS Cup, with many parts coming together at key moments.

One of those parts is Toronto’s bench, which has been superb throughout the playoffs. So as the Cup final quickly approaches, let us take a look at the men who often tend to get overlooked but were essential to the club’s success this season… the substitutes.

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Montreal Impact at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

It would be a stretch to say that Toronto’s bench is stronger than the club’s starting XI, but I do stand by the claim that they are equal. For the first time in club history, I can honestly say that the club actually has a bench that is reliable.

When Sebastian Giovinco was subbed off due to an injury (with the possibility of penalties quickly looming) many would be worrisome… but I wasn’t. How convenient that his replacement Benoit Cheyrou, the former Marseille midfielder, should be the one to so gracefully place the ball past Evan Bush in the bottom left-hand corner. It was almost poetic, but as soon as that goal came, a second quickly followed.

I’ve praised him before as the Reds’ super sub, and on Wednesday night he lived up to that title. After receiving a cross-field pass from Jozy Altidore on the right-hand side, Tosaint Ricketts was able to slide a difficult shot within the six-yard box - while fighting off a defender - under the arm of Bush to seal the deal for TFC.

So, what does this all mean? What it means is that two of Toronto’s goals, and arguably their most pivotal ones, came from their substitutes. Both Cheyrou and Ricketts quickly defused Montreal’s momentum in extra time, and the goals themselves were not the only factor they contributed in doing so.

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Montreal Impact at Toronto FC Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a look at last week in Montreal. Toronto lost the match but once again, things quickly began to click after Ricketts was subbed on. The Canadian was able to move the ball at a faster pace and stretch Montreal’s defence. He gave the key players behind him a chance to push forward. As a result, TFC were able to score two quick goals that otherwise may have not happened.

There is a relationship between both the starting XI and their substitutes this season which can cause problems for the Seattle Sounders. One may argue that this is simply good coaching, but that’s not to take away from individual contributions of TFC’s bench. They have consistently proven themselves worthy in tight situations, and it is difficult to stop them when pressing forward in the latter stages of games. If Toronto, dare I say it, should fall behind on Saturday, their bench can pick up the slack, which means the Sounders will have to be on their toes right until the whistle.

As the saying goes, ‘It ain’t over until the fat lady sings.’ In TFC’s case, this is most definitely true when you have a bench consisting of Bloom, Bono, Cheyrou, Endoh, Osorio, Ricketts, and Williams to draw upon.