Toronto FC sure had fun tonight in a 3-0 victory over the Columbus Crew. There were smiles all round, schoolyard tricks and playful goal celebrations. Not only did Toronto FC look like a dominant team, they also just resembled eleven guys having a great time as they played Sunday night soccer.
After a season that has been chalked full of difficulties for the club, it was fun to watch them let their hair down a little bit. The results were clearly contagious, as the club played some of the most entertaining soccer it has in its history, fueling a raucous atmosphere from kickoff at BMO Field.
It emerged from a passionate national anthem, and grew only eight minutes in when a Sebastian Giovinco shot deflected off of Tsubasa Endoh and into the back of the net. By the time Jozy Altidore put the match beyond doubt in the dying minutes it was clear that this had been a special performance.
It was the kind of performance that was deserving of the Trillium Cup trophy, awarded at the final whistle. But it is the standings, and not this second, and far less meaningful, piece of silverware that Toronto FC cares about.
"The biggest thing, in fairness, were the three points," said Greg Vanney after the match. "We will take the silverware along with the three points. But the three points, based on today, push us up the table some more. We're in a real close shot of the guys in front of us, and create real separation from those behind us. But we are aiming for the group in front of us."
Coming off a 4-1 victory last weekend against DC United, Toronto FC came flying out of the gate tonight. They scored a massive goal just eight minutes into the match, setting the tone for all that was to follow.
Toronto FC now has a perfect 6-0-0 record when leading at halftime, underlining just how important getting a quick start is for this club.
"Early goals are huge, we struggled to do that earlier in the season," said Drew Moor. "It just opens things up, relaxes you, especially here at home."
That start came courtesy of Toronto FC's youthful midfield, who wasted no time getting down to business. All four members were under 25, but stepped up big time in the absence of three key midfield starters. They set the tone, and despite some shaky moments, were able to sustain it for the full 90 minutes.
"It's fun to watch, it's fun to put them out there," said Vanney. "I would bet that not many people would see us put that lineup out and bet on us on the day. We took it to them today so I am very proud of that group."
All four had outstanding games, but two ,in particular, deserve special mention. The first is Marky Delgado who did a solid job filling in for the injured Benoit Cheyrou. Those are big boots to fill, but Delgado did so admirably. The second is Jay Chapman, who continues to bring creativity in the final third that Toronto FC has been missing this season.
When Toronto FC really came alive, however, was when Jozy Altidore was introduced early in the second half. This was undoubtedly Altidore's best game of the season, and that was even before he scored his first goal of the year. His combination play with Giovinco is as good as ever, and the pair easily could have created more than one goal together.
"I think Seba has missed Jozy as much or more than anyone over the course of the last few months while he was coming back," said Vanney post game. "I think it's just getting Jozy back into the rhythm and the groove of things, getting him touches, getting him in front of goal, keep him involved and for the two of them to continue to work off each other. Because if they do they'll be virtually unstoppable."
Toronto FC has looked just as unstoppable over the past couple of games, but it is worth noting the opponents. Neither DC United last week, nor the Columbus Crew this week, really tested Toronto FC very much. Matches on Wednesday against Real Salt Lake and New England Revolution on Saturday will be better measuring sticks.
However, it is the momentum that the club picked up from these results that could really pay dividends down the road. It has been a very stop and start season for Toronto FC, so a winning streak now would go a long way towards pushing them to the top of the Conference.
"Anytime you can go on winning streaks in this league it is a good thing," said Moor after the match. "Again we've got two more at home this week, we've got to keep this momentum going. This league is all about momentum, and this team has a lot of confidence right now."
In the past two matches, Toronto FC has found its scoring touch, while not sacrificing its sturdy defensive play. They have played an electric brand of soccer that efficiently breaks down opponents. They are making BMO Field into a fortress once again. Now all they have to do is keep it going.