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Canadian Championship: 3 takeaways from Toronto FC’s semifinal win over Pacific FC

On Jozy Altidore, Jacob Shaffelburg, and Toronto FC’s fine form at BMO Field.

Jacob Shaffelburg and Jozy Altidore during Toronto FC’s 2-1 win over Pacific FC in the 2021 Canadian Championship semifinal
(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

TORONTO, Canada—It took until the final few matches of the season, but Toronto FC are finally stringing together quality performances that are translating into results.

The victory over Pacific FC on Wednesday night marks the fourth straight match where TFC has avoided defeat. As a result of the win over Pacific FC, TFC has the opportunity to take on their rivals CF Montreal in the final of the 2021 Canadian Championship.

TFC’s improved play at BMO Field

(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

Home field advantage has certainly played a factor for the reds recently. The win on Wednesday night means that TFC has secured at least one point in seven of their last eight home matches (five wins, two draws, and one loss). Six of these matches were MLS regular season matches where Toronto was able to win three, draw two and lose one. Before this stretch, TFC only managed three wins in 27 MLS regular season games.

Two of these eight matches were Canadian Championship games where TFC defeated two of the top Canadian Premier League teams (York United on September 22 and Pacific FC on November 3). It is worth noting that Toronto FC began their season playing their scheduled home games in Florida up until July 17 when they were able to play in front of their home fans at BMO Field again. The impact of the fans, the condition of field and the gradual return to normalcy has helped elevate the reds play at the back end of this 2021 season and certainly played an important role in their win over Pacific FC.

Jozy is finding his form

(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

Jozy Altidore is arguably one of the best strikers in MLS history and undeniably a Toronto FC legend. When Altidore is at the top of his game it is nearly impossible to prevent him from scoring. Pacific FC found this out 15 minutes into the match when Altidore found the back of the net with a perfect right-footed shot that curled in off the right post.

The goal was Altidore’s sixth in the Canadian Championship and he is now the competition’s all-time leading scorer tied with Jonathan Osorio, Sebastian Giovinco and Ignacio Piatti. He has also scored three goals in his last four starts and is slowly rediscovering the same form that helped TFC advance to two MLS Cup finals and a Concacaf Champions League final from 2016-2018.

A healthy Jozy Altidore is a problem for any opposing team. If Altidore can remain healthy through the one remaining MLS regular season game and every training session leading up to the Canadian Championship final he will be heading into the match against CF Montreal as one of the most appealing options to score during that rivalry match.

Shaffelburg Man of the Match... Again

(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

At this point in the season, Jacob Shaffelburg is essentially the light at the end of the tunnel for Toronto FC fans. It is remarkable how much Shaffelburg has progressed his game since he first came up to the team in 2019. Shaffelburg always had the skill and effort to be successful, but the individual results and statistics never truly matched up with the number of chances he created.

The 21-year-old winger finished Wednesday’s game with a goal and an assist which was good enough to win him man of the match.

“Excellent,” said head coach Javier Perez when asked about Shaffelburg after the match. “He’s the one who runs in behind and I think without him, the team would look completely different. His performance, he was really good ... I value very high the performance tonight.”

The goal and assist were obviously impressive, but what was even more impressive was how almost all of Toronto FC’s offensive attacks ran through Shaffelburg. This match could have easily finished with Shaffelburg’s name being on the score sheet five or six times. The Canadian international has the talent, work ethic and character that embodies a genuine soccer superstar. His career will be an interesting one to follow, but it goes without saying that Shaffelburg is just getting started on his path to superstardom.