Toronto FC are winners of three straight after narrowly overcoming Real Salt Lake 1-0 at BMO Field. It is their longest winning streak of the season, as they continue to climb the Eastern Conference standings.
Tosaint Ricketts came off the bench to play hero in just his second appearance for Toronto FC. Alex Bono, meanwhile, stood tall once again in goal for his third shutout of the season, and second straight.
Both teams had played just three days earlier, and it was evident in their early play. While neither team was particularly sloppy, they simply looked rusty as they tried to break one another down. Creative passes were attempted, but would miss narrowly.
Real Salt Lake recorded the first shot on target of the match 39 minutes in, when Joao Plata got a chance in the box, but was foiled by Bono. It was an excellent kick save, as the young keeper made himself big to stop what would have been a difficult goal to concede.
Toronto FC came close late in the half, when Jay Chapman ran through several Real Salt Lake defenders to create a chance. RSL were forced to clear the ball off of their goal line to end the sequence, as Giovinco tried to chip the ball over the head of keeper Nick Rimando.
The two clubs would enter the half with not a single goal, and just one shot on target apiece. Real Salt Lake enjoyed the bulk of possession but did not do all that much with it as the Toronto backline held firm.
Toronto woke up slightly early in the second half, testing the Real Salt Lake backline with some better ball movement. They still, however, failed to create clear shooting chances.
The crowd was brought to its feet in uproar early in the half when a pair of calls that would have resulted in penalties. While neither play was definitive upon first viewing of the reply, a Real Salt Lake defender appeared to take down Tsubasa Endoh, while another appeared to commit a handball.
Looking for a boost, Greg Vanney made an offensive double substitution, bringing on Jozy Altidore and Tosaint Ricketts in the 59th minute to try and add to a quiet Toronto attack. The pair made an instant impact, adding strength and speed respectively to the front line.
They used these attributes perfectly when they combined for a goal just 12 minutes after checking into the match. A long ball from Bono found the head of Altidore, who flicked it through for Ricketts. The rapid Canadian attacker finished off his chance well, giving Toronto FC the lead and scoring his first goal for the club.
Bono then came up big again in the 75th minute. With Real Salt Lake pressing into the Toronto box, he running out of the net and slid the ball to safety. It was likely the best game of his young career, as he really did earn yet another shutout.
The win takes Toronto FC into second place in the Eastern Conference, the highest they have been since the first week of the season. They are now just three points out of first place in the Conference, with a game in hand on the East-leading New York City FC.