Last night’s win won’t officially put Toronto FC at the top of the Eastern Conference. But it sent a message to the rest of the league that it’s only a matter of time before they end up in that position, and perhaps even in the Supporters Shield conversation.
A 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union was not just the club’s best road result of the season, it was one of their best performances of the season against a Union side who are no pushovers. Philly had only lost twice at home all season, after all, and was only three points behind Toronto in the standings at the start of the match.
It was the sixth straight match that Toronto FC has gone without being beaten, and five of those ended in victory. With the playoffs just around the corner, Toronto FC has finally hit its stride, and it has extended to the road.
Road matches for Toronto FC this season has ultimately come down to one factor: whether or not they score first. When they do, they look impossible to steal the three points back from.
Sensing blood, Toronto were the aggressors early and got their reward in the 18th minute courtesy of an excellent team move. Marky Delgado ultimately played the decisive ball which found Sebastian Giovinco behind the Union backline. The atomic ant rarely misses chances like that, and did not on this occasion.
Toronto FC looked back, albeit momentarily, long enough for the Union to tie the game from a set piece header. But there’s a confidence that Toronto FC seems to get when they strike first, and it could not be stopped on this night.
Just six minutes after the Union scored Toronto FC struck again, this time for a set piece of their own. This time, they didn’t look back.
It was Jozy Altidore who put the icing on the cake with the third and final Toronto goal. This is easily the best that the American striker has played since joining the club last season, as he has now scored in his last three matches. He powered past the Union backline on his goal, before curling the ball into the net.
Last night, Altidore showed off everything that made him special as a player. His passing was on point, whether it was short passes to start a play or long balls. His dribbling is that of a man with confidence, who believes he can beat any opponent. He even got back and helped defensively.
Toronto FC also got the welcome return of Will Johnson, who looked right at home in the midfield. Always a gamer, Johnson returned to his aggressive style of play, breaking up several Union attacks while contributing to Toronto’s.
In Johnson’s return, as well as Altidore’s and Bradley’s, Toronto FC has proven that they now know when to push players back into the lineup after injury. Whereas they may have allowed players to play too early in the past, they now have the depth to allow them to wait until a player is fully ready to return.
Both Johnson and Altidore were substituted off before the end of the match, but by then the damage was already done. Instead of resting on their laurels, Toronto FC pushed the Union for most of the second half. It was a refreshing change of pace after how many results they have historically dropped on the road while sitting back.
Toronto FC now has a chance to finish their road trip in style when they visit Orlando City on Wednesday. That match will give them a chance to set a club record for most road wins in a season, with five.