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Vintage TFC crush Revs, playoff hopes still alive

Toronto FC chalked up an impressive 4-1 victory over playoff challengers, the New England Revolution as they keep their slim hopes of making it to the post-season picture alive.

MLS: New England Revolution at Toronto FC Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Starting with the bottom line, Toronto FC still have a (very slim) chance of progressing to the playoffs despite their disappointing 2018 MLS campaign.

Following Saturday’s 4-1 rout of the New England Revolution, Greg Vanney’s clan (30 games played) stand seven points behind sixth-placed Montreal Impact (31 games played) with four games left.

TFC’s final four ties will see them cross swords with their Canadian rivals in three weeks time. In order to make that 401 derby count, the MLS Cup defending champions have to see off Vancouver Whitecaps next, but also D.C. United who are currently a couple of points behind (with two games in hand on Montreal).

At this point, no more questions asked. Only W’s (and calculations) matter.

We all feel Greg Vanney

“I would be lying if I said that it did not cross my mind how is this team is not in the playoff picture right now,” Vanney told reporters after the game.

“It for sure went through my mind … What I am happy about is the group tonight, they put their foot on the gas and they never took it off once we really got rolling. That was a good sign. It looked like they were having fun again in a season that obviously has been challenging in many ways.”

“For me it was a lot of the team that we saw last year… It was nice to see that again,” he concluded.

The gaffer will have been happy, not just for the result, but also for the way his group conducted the game, in particular in the second half.

With D.C. United on fire against the Impact, TFC felt the need to return that favour and rather than cracking under pressure as they often did throughout this campaign, they evoked some of their best drives from last year’s playbook to annihilate their opponents.

TFC’s coach shifted skipper Michael Bradley to the upper part of the field during the first half, and this helped him to dialogue much better and more frequently with the offensive partners, even with the impressive Lucas Janson who replaced the injured Jozy Altidore early in the first 45 minutes.

For TFC, it was important to exert their quality on the flanks, in order to put themselves in one-on-one situations against the Revs defenders who appear to struggle a lot in these kinds of areas. And indeed, they did so, as TFC were able to unlock the likes of Sebastian Giovinco, Auro and Jonathan Osorio with their quick positive transitions.

Vanney had something to say about this as well at the post-game presser. “We did well in exposing the wide channels for the one-on-one situations and we were also good when we had to make quick transitions, as well.”

The skill and structure that the team showed in the second half was something that the BMO Field crowd lacked this season. At one point in the second 45 minutes, TFC had a Janson goal disallowed for offside, soon after another one from Jonathan Osorio was called back due to an initial foul before the Argentine striker managed to hit the back of the net, moments later. That flurry of quick ‘goals’ demonstrated TFC’s hunger for the W, something that was not always in the order of the day this year.

‘You can see what it means having everybody back’

After the game, Italian stalwart Giovinco spoke about the importance of recovering players which automatically strengthens TFC’s starting XI, and also the bench.

“We are starting to get everybody back. You can see what it means,” the former Juventus players was quoted.

Chris Mavinga was making his second straight appearance after last week’s display at the New York Red Bulls, while injury-plagued Victor Vazquez was making just his 20th MLS appearance this year.

Yet, the game took a bad turn in the early stages when Altidore limped off the field before the Revs forged ahead. It was an “Oh, here we go again” moment for the 24,000 spectators.

However, luckily so, Giovinco was in a great mood and his spectacular leveller paved the way for the three points.

Giovinco also heaped praise on TFC’s latest arrival, Janson, describing him as an intelligent person and a player who has a broad knowledge of the game.

Such players are important for TFC to move forward, no matter how this season ends. Hunger, motivation and quality are three ingredients which made Toronto FC a model to follow last season but have, unfortunately, been missing there and then in 2018.