Tsubasa Endoh scored one goal and created another to help book Toronto FC’s place in the Canadian Championship final with a 4-0 win over the Ottawa Fury.
The Fury visited BMO Field with a 2-1 lead to protect and got off to an excellent start, with Ryan Williams testing Clint Irwin from inside the box in the opening minutes.
A first-half substitution by Greg Vanney swung the momentum Toronto’s way, however, and Endoh - pushed into a more advanced position - crossed low for Justin Morrow to force an own goal from Eddie Edward.
Endoh then put TFC in front on aggregate by dashing into the box to flick a pinpoint Victor Vazquez cross past Callum Irving.
That sucked the life out of the Fury and Toronto dominated the second half, scoring two further goals to set up a final against the Montreal Impact.
Half-time substitute Sebastian Giovinco released Morrow down the left to cross for another sub, Marky Delgado, to tap into the empty net and Giovinco, returning from a quad injury, then got in on the action himself by firing a left-footed shot past Irving after a Vazquez through ball.
1. Endoh finds a home: Endoh was experiencing a strange first half; he looked like Toronto’s most dangerous player at times, which was partially due to the way Ottawa’s defence was tilted towards Morrow and Vazquez on the left. He showed moments of promise but generally lacked a quality final ball, and by the time Tosaint Ricketts was forced off with an injury it was beginning to take its toll on his confidence.
Vanney might have saved the tie with the change he made in response to Ricketts coming off, but he also brought Endoh back from a potential setback as well. The Japanese looked far more comfortable higher up the pitch, where he was able to provide the penetration the Reds had lacked to that point.
2. Bradley is missed: Toronto were not playing well until Vanney’s first-half substitution and were fortunate not to be behind. Ottawa had not only held the fort defensively but created two or three decent chances, with the Reds looking worryingly open at the back.
That was surprising given the strength of the three-man defence selected, and speaks to how influential Michael Bradley has become in his holding-midfield role. Benoit Cheyrou is as good a replacement as the Reds could hope to have, but Bradley has simply been dominant since last season’s playoffs. He’ll never win it because he doesn’t make a mark in the goals and assists columns, but to me he is currently the strongest MVP candidate on the best team in MLS.
3. Giovinco stretches his legs: The Italian’s introduction at half-time was an interesting move. Was it simply to protect Jordan Hamilton, who may now be required to start in New England if Ricketts is out? Was it to placate his desire for minutes after last week’s Instagram post? Or was Vanney attempting to build him up to play a part against the Revolution?
The latter possibility seemed unlikely due to the turf pitch at Gillette Stadium, but if Ricketts is out the coach may have no choice but to at least put Giovinco on the plane for this weekend’s match.