This was never likely to be a vintage Reds display given the nature of their schedule this week, and the toll the doubleheader has taken on the players was evident in the slumped figures on the bench and the laboured running of some of those left on the pitch to battle it out for the full 90 (plus six) minutes.
They made the fast start they needed to ensure they were not chasing the game, though, taking the lead when Armando Cooper battled his way past a man on the right and whipped a low cross across goal that Drew Moor tucked home after a deflection off Tsubasa Endoh.
Jozy Altidore should have had a penalty for a challenge from behind near the edge of the area but then so should Andrew Farrell, who was tripped by Jason Hernandez to Alex Bono’s right early in the second half.
As Toronto grew wearier, they leaned on their goalkeeper and he did not let them down. Bono leapt to his left in the 87th minute to deny substitute Teal Bunbury, whose looping header appeared destined for the top corner.
BMO Field was finally allowed to relax and burst into celebration when Sebastian Giovinco latched on to a long Victor Vazquez pass on the break and beat one man before slotting past Cody Cropper.
1. The home run continues: Toronto have made BMO Field a fortress and they needed all the extra energy it could offer them here, with the Reds clinging on by the time Giovinco finally made sure of the result. His goal felt like it took a weight off the shoulders of both player and team alike.
If Toronto had dropped this game, it would have been one of the more understandable upsets of their season given the shape they were in off the back of the trip to Quebec for the Canadian Championship. That wouldn’t have made it any less damaging, though; TFC go to Dallas, Orlando City and New York City without their Gold Cup players after the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final, making these three points an important boost as the season reaches its halfway mark.
2. Cooper bounces back: Cooper has dealt with his fair share of criticism of late but as good as Marky Delgado has been, he can’t play every game and the Panamanian is the natural alternative.
This was a much-improved display on Cooper’s part, and Toronto needed it. He was clearly making a concerted effort to quicken his movement of the ball and while it looked as if it was feeling a little unnatural to him at times, he was substituted with an 87% passing accuracy mark on the night.
At the time of his replacement by Jonathan Osorio, only Vazquez had attempted more passes than Cooper and he had also added four tackles and two interceptions. Most importantly, he orchestrated the first goal of the night and from the way his teammates rushed to him in the aftermath, it was clear it was a moment he needed.
3. Bono cements his status: After a mixed night for Clint Irwin in Montreal, Bono was excellent here when his team needed him to be, playing as they were with tired legs against a high-powered offensive team. He saved his best of the night until last, producing a superb stop to deny Bunbury.
Endoh and Hernandez also deserve mentions at the back for coming into the team and keeping Fagundez, who was such a thorn in Toronto’s side three weeks ago, on the periphery of the game. The Uruguayan did not have a shot on target or create a chance on the night.