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MLS Decision Day: A Toronto FC Perspective

Now that the regular season is (finally) over, here’s a quick look at what happened around the league on Decision Day.

Sunday was a beautiful day for MLS Decision Day.
Sean Pollock - Waking The Red

TORONTO, Canada—It’s exciting to see the 2021 season come to an end, as it’s been a bit of a disaster for Toronto FC. Now that the Centre of the Universe’s team is done, I guess we have to focus our attention elsewhere.

There was no way I could watch all of these matches as they were happening, as I was at TFC’s last regular season game, saying goodbye to club legend Justin Morrow. It’s a shame he couldn’t get a win in his last regular season game. However, we’re hoping he gets one more chance to lift the Voyageurs cup!

So, if you’re looking for an in-depth analysis of each game, you’re not going to find it here. Rather, it’s a cursory look at what happened and make some connections to Toronto FC.

Eastern Conference

Toronto FC 1 – 3 DC United

Read Jeyanth’s rundown here — Toronto FC end poor campaign with loss to D.C. United — where he did a much better job than I could have hoped to do.

Richie’s goal was a thing of beauty, as he hammered it into the net from 20 yards out. It was fantastic to have a chance to say goodbye to Morrow, who at one point looked like he was playing as a striker, looking to pot one more in front of the South End.

At the start of the day, DC United still had a slim chance of making the playoffs with needing a win, a NY Red Bulls loss, and having +7 goal differential. As absurd as that sounds, DCU came close in July part in thanks to a 7-1 shellacking of TFC, marking the end of the Chris Armas era in Toronto.

With his penalty and clever flick on goal, DCU striker Ola Kamara tied NYCFC’s Valentin Castellanos for the Golden Boot with 19 goals, but Castellanos won the Golden Boot on a tie-breaker, having more assists than Kamara. Giovinco scored 22 goals in 2015 to win the Golden Boot, the only TFC player to do so. Fun Fact – Jeff Cunningham won it twice in 2006 and 2009, just before arriving in Toronto and just after leaving!

Montreal 0 – 2 Orlando

Le Club de Foot had to win this match to make it into the playoffs. As a TFC supporter, I am overwhelmed with delight that Montreal is now out. Orlando needed to win to ensure their place in the playoffs. They won, thus eliminating Montreal. Merci, l’equipe violet.

This game was not without controversy, as Honduran International Romell Quioto was called offside and had a goal disallowed:

Montreal’s Rudy “Macho” Camacho was shown a straight red after a studs-up tackle on Daryl Dike. Dike is the younger brother of former Toronto FC Bright Dike, who, funny enough, scored his lone goal against DC United in 2013.

à la prochaine Montreal!

Cincinnati 1 – 2 Atlanta

Atlanta United entered Decision Day on 48 points, needing a win to guarantee playoffs.

At one point, perennial wooden-spoon winner FC Cincinnati was leading 1-0 thanks to a Zico Bailey goal in the 21st minute, making Brad Guzan look all of his 37 years old. As a person who delights in the misfortunes of others, this development brought a huge grin to my face.

Alas, the scoreline didn’t stand as Miles Robinson equalized, and Josef Martinez (OF COURSE!) scored the winner with a nice volley. Let’s hope Atlanta’s playoff run is a short one, so we won’t have to listen to platitudes about this team.

Former TFC Superdraft Pick Nick Hagglund didn’t play, as he was out with season-ending wrist surgery. We wish you a speedy recovery, Nick!

Columbus 2 – 0 Chicago

Both teams were mathematically eliminated before Sunday. Columbus took a bit of a nosedive in August and never really recovered from it. On the other hand, Chicago had been battling with Toronto and Cincinnati all season for the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

Columbus Striker Lucas Zelarayan just keeps scoring, as he finishes the year with 12 goals. Also, are we ever going to see Toronto FC loanee Liam Fraser again in a red kit? I wouldn’t hold my breath as his contract is up at the end of the year . . .

Shoutout to Chicago Fire keeper C. Brady! Good luck seeing the pitch playing behind wunderkind Gabriel Slonina.

Nashville 1 – New York Red Bulls

Nashville FC had already clnched a playoff spot, could have finished in second place with a win. It didn’t happen. NYRB needed a point to make sure things were comfortable for them, which happened.

Former Toronto FC winger Daniel Lovitz has found a home in Nashville. Also, CMNT defender Alastair Johnson is off to the playoffs again with the second-year MLS team. Hany Mukhtar finished the season with 16 goals. Remember when TFC had a goal-scorer?
Also, < Insert J. Tolkin/Lord of the Rings Joke here >

New England 0 – 1 Miami

Having clinched the (made-in-Toronto) Supporters’ Shield, New England didn’t finish the season on a high note, despite playing many of their starters against a mediocre Inter Miami squad. Miami only brought 17 players to Foxborough, including former Toronto FC midfielder Jay Chapman, who saw 10 minutes of action off of the bench. Also, Brek Shea’s mullet was in fine form this match.

Federico Higuain didn’t make the trip to New England, wisely choosing to avoid the turf at Gillette, lest he suffered the fate of Danny Koevermans. As a Toronto FC supporter, I am glad to see Higuain retire. His time with Columbus, D.C., and Miami saw him score what seemed like every match against TFC. Congrats on a great career – thanks for retiring!

NYCFC 1 – 1 Philadelphia

NYCFC ensured their playoff spot with a 1-1 draw at home on the square-pitched Yankee Stadium. As mentioned earlier, Castellanos secured the Golden Boot with a nice header from a Moralez cross into the open net. NYCFC seems to be that team that are annoyingly good every year. However, Toronto FC is merciless when playing in NYCFC, owning a 7-7-5 record and a +9 goal differential. Who can forget the 5-0 match in 2016 playoff quarter-finals?

Philadelphia, after years of mediocrity, has seemed to have turned things around under Jim Curtin. They clinched second place with a draw. Joe Bendik, TFC’s go-to keeper before the Alex Bono era, is firmly planted on the bench behind Andre Blake. Bendik played in 3 games this year.

Western Conference

Colorado 5 – 2 LAFC

Let’s call this the “Once and Future Toronto FC Derby” – as the Rapids’ current lineup and coaching staff have a strong Toronto FC connection, and if the rumours are true, Bob Bradley may become the next Head Coach of TFC.

The Western Conference playoff picture was more fluid than the Eastern Conference, as positions 1 through 3 were up for grabs on Sunday. Former TFC assistant coach, Robin Fraser, has done wonders with this team, finishing with 61 points and a record of 17-10-7. Also, give credit to Rapids GM Padraig Smith for luring TFC II castoff and CanMNT member Mark-Anthony Kaye away from LAFC.

Remember Collen Warner? Well, he’s still playing, and he scored! Apparently that’s his first goal since March 2017, when he played for Minnesota United.

Colorado boasts a lineup of former Toronto FC players including Drew Moor, Steven Beitasour, and Clint Irwin. No Nicolas Benezet, though (he plays for the Sounders).

Raheem Edwards played the full 90 in this match. He’s jumped around the league after leaving TFC in 2017 – Chicago, Montreal, Chicago (again), Minnesota, and LAFC. He’s getting regular minutes in LA, so hopefully he’s found a home.

Kansas City 0 – 1 Salt Lake City

Real Salt Lake squeaked into the playoffs with a last-minute Damir Kreilach goal in injury time. Kreilach put home the goal after a Justin Meram bicycle kick. Meram is a familiar name to TFC fans from his annoyingly-good play when he was with Columbus.

Sporting KC already clinched a playoff spot, so this loss doesn’t affect their standing

Hey, is that Ashtone Morgan on the bench for RSL?

La Galaxy 3 – 3 Minnesota

LA Galaxy scored the last 4 goals of the game. Unfortunately, Julian Araujo scored an own goal, which ended up putting a nail in the coffin of the Galaxy’s season.

Chicarito scored a brace, but (thankfully) didn’t win the Golden Boot. We would have never heard the end of it. I’m kind of glad that Toronto FC is in the Eastern Conference, so we don’t have to listen to how great he is. I’m convinced part of Chicarito’s success is directly connected to Victor Vasquez, the one-time Red, who is able to create chances for players in tight spaces.

More importantly, former TFC manager Greg Vanney missed the playoffs, as the Galaxy needed to win the match to secure a playoff spot. LA Galaxy managed just four wins since the start of August while drawing eight games for a total of 20 points. In comparison, TFC won three games since August 1, and had 16 points. Perhaps not the most ringing endorsement for the Gregfather.

Also, where’s Dayne St. Clair? He hasn’t played since June 6. When is Toronto FC signing him?

Portland 3 – 0 Austin

The Timbers teed off on the expansion club Austin FC, scoring three goals in a game that had really no importance to the playoff picture. Austin didn’t finish in the basement of the Western Conference, and finished with five more points than Toronto. Sigh.

Diego Valeri is still playing - huh. Also, Kekuta Manneh has played for five MLS teams now.

San Jose 1 – 1 Dallas

Both teams were out of playoff contention at the start of the day, so the result didn’t matter.

Chris Wondoloski, MLS all-time leading goal scorer and a thorn the side of Toronto FC, retired yesterday after 16 years in the league. As a nice send-off to himself, Wondo scored his 171th career goal in the draw. An MLS legend.

Vancouver 1 – 1 Seattle

I had my doubts about the Whitecaps after they sacked Marc Dos Santos. Getting rid of a coach with 14 games left in the season is risky. However, it turns out Vanni Sartini was a pleasant surprise. With Sunday’s win, Sartini’s record is 7-5-2, only losing 2 games to Portand and Seattle. That’s 1.92 points per game.

Furthermore, his charisma shines through in this interview:

“I want to say publicly, thank you, Yousef, Ricardo, Mike and JP, who is not here because he probably drunk, ah, drinking whatever . . .”

Ryan Gauld scored for the Whitecaps, yet again. He’s been a revelation for the club this year since joining the end of July. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Brian White scoring all kinds of goals.

Maxime Crepeau has been a brick wall this year. Also, CanMNT supporters hope Lucas Cavallini returns to form, as he’s been called up to the national squad for this round of World Cup qualifiers.

Seattle featured two former TFC players, Stefan Frei and Nicolas Benezet. I really miss Frei, as he was a victim of circumstance in 2013. I’ll never forgive him for that save against Jozy in the 2016 MLS Cup.

Benezet? He wasn’t treated the best while here, but didn’t take it like a professional. We’ll see how the first round goes for Seattle, as they haven’t won since September 9.

So, after the international break, the playoffs start. My advice to the Toronto FC supporter? Pick a team and see if that team does anything in the playoffs. I would suggest Colorado or Vancouver.