Until five months ago, winning this tie seemed more like a formality but fast forward to this day, this game had a huge importance in Toronto FC’s agenda.
The MLS Cup champions are on the back of a disastrous start in their league campaign and with the playoffs starting to fade, retaining the Canadian Championship has become a priority.
There’s the obvious CONCACAF Champions League qualification at stake. Plus, returning to winning ways could help to ease the temperature in the locker room because after all, winning helps winning and maybe this is what the team needs — a victory which can trigger motivation and hunger for further wins.
Obviously, it would not make sense to compare this performance with the displays that the team has been putting up in MLS for a number of reasons, considering that this was a second (if not third)-string side that took to the field while it was another competition so that could have forced the squad to have different motivations.
Nonetheless, I still decided to highlight the fact that the team managed to unlock the score very early in the game and throughout the whole 90 minutes, managed to preserve its lead even though at some points Ottawa sent shivers down Toronto FC’s spine.
Unlike in what has been a trademark in this year’s MLS campaign for TFC, Vanney’s side took the lead and managed to remain in control for all the game. The opponents were not Sporting Kansas City or FC Dallas or any other MLS side, but it was still important for TFC to hold on to their advantage and show that they can be in control of the game, even when there is the need to defend and withstand.
Wednesday showed that the good old days might still be there for TFC, even though the squad is still waiting for the re-entries of the majority of the heroes of the past campaign.
Osorio a key figure
Jonathan Osorio, captaining the side for the first time, was once again TFC’s best player on the field. Despite the rough seas in which the club found itself, Osorio has shown his tough-minded mentality.
His 5th-minute winner was his 11th goal of the season, in 26 appearances between MLS, Canadian Championship and CONCACAF Champions League.
Deploying him in the starting XI was a smart choice from Vanney as Osorio is TFC’s main threat at the moment, with his goals, assists, and creativity. Moreover, he is also a key figure in the locker room and given he has tasted bad and good moments in a TFC shirt, he knows how to handle certain situations. There are some youth players who were in the locker room for the Ottawa game and they look up to him as a reference point in their careers.
He contributed heavily in the defensive sector, with three clearances and nine recoveries as Toronto FC held on to their narrow advantage over Ottawa.
Irwin’s big moment
Alex Bono has been one of TFC’s best players during the past two seasons. He has been essential with his reflexes, last-ditch saves, finger-tip saves and physical presence inside the area.
Obviously, this has helped TFC to guarantee more security because having a commanding goalkeeper automatically triggers more confidence in the backline.
Wednesday’s game reminded us of Clint Irwin’s abilities, with his 85th-minute save which helped TFC to preserve its clean sheet.
After all, Irwin played 44 games with TFC, was the number one goalkeeper prior to Bono’s emergence, and has over 100 appearances in MLS in his career.
Refreshing to see Canadian blood
This championship always provides minutes for some Canadianst who are hardly given any playing time in MLS, and that was the case once again against Ottawa.
Among the Canadians that featured in the game, Malik Johnson caught the eye of many with his presence on the field and his eagerness in showcasing his skills.
He had 15 successful passes in the first half where he was trying to connect with Ayo Akinola and Ryan Telfer down the left-hand side. Despite his young age and appetite to attack the opponent, he also gave a helping hand at the back with two tackles and two recoveries.
Although he can be considered a veteran among the youngsters, it is always a pleasure to watch Jay Chapman grace the field. In his 14th appearance in 2018, Chapman was at the heart of every TFC move connecting the midfield with the offensive line, even though in the second half it proved to be a difficult task with Ottawa pushing in search of an equalizer. He was also crucial in preventing the opponents from threatening TFC’s backline with seven recoveries as well.