Ok, I get it. These teams are not in the same league as Real Madrid and Barcelona, but that game was something special and this rivalry needs a title. It may not have been the prettiest soccer game or the most technical but it was a passion filled, emotionally draining rollercoaster of a ride. It will go down as one of the best MLS games ever played and a match no one will soon forget. It took 120 minutes for TorontoFC to be declared winners and they did dispel a couple of false notions along the way. Before discussing those points however, it is only fitting to tip our caps to their opponents who were fantastic throughout. For the Montreal Impact and their fans, especially those that made the five hour trek across HWY 401, I wish there were words to remove that sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach. I promise you it does lessen with time, but sadly, it never really goes away. We in Toronto can say that because we have lived through it twice with the Blue Jays who were eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals and through the Raptors as well. It is disheartening to say the least but try not to let it overshadow the fantastic year they have had and how each team brought out the best in each other. For that we sincerely thank you and would love to have a rematch next year. Now on to a couple of those dispelled notions.
False Notion #1 – TFC has no depth
Since the beginning of last year when superstar Giovinco dazzled us with his wizardry, we knew we would only go as far as he would take us. Even this year, the story was that our big three designated players (Giovinco, Altidore, Bradley) were the entire team and everyone else was filler. These last two playoff games have definitely proved otherwise. Last week, the Reds didn’t get going until the 60th minute when super substitute Tosaint Ricketts and midfielder Will Johnson came into the game and used their energy and pace to get some much needed away goals. This week it was three players (Armando Cooper, Nick Hagglund and Benoit Cheyrou) who all contributed by scoring their very first goal of the season. This isn’t to say the “Big Three” had no impact (sorry about the pun) as Jozy Altidore continued to be a beast. He had a goal, an assist, ran over everyone and deservedly was the Man of the Match, but when your entire team is contributing then special things happen. Having Giovinco out there is still a bonus even if he doesn’t score as he draws plenty of attention from opposing defenders (rightfully so) that also provides more space for others. The rest of the team did a great job in capitalizing on that free space. The team showed its flexibility in how they defend as they can change from their regular attacking formation 3-5-2 into a more traditional 4-4-2 depending on situations and match-ups.
— Steve Gennaro (@_sgennaro) December 1, 2016
False Notion #2 – The crowd doesn’t really matter.
Quite simply, if this second leg match was in Montreal the outcome would have been different. One of the key moments of the match came right after Montreal scored their first goal in the 24th minute. The goal shook everyone’s nerves as players and fans alike went from great anticipation to self-doubt. Everyone became a little unsettled as questions raced into your mind. Are all Toronto teams destined to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals? Is the moment just too big for us? Are we good enough to win? In the presser after the game, Coach Vanney spoke about the crowd at that moment. They could have booed, they could have fallen silent, but instead they chanted, “TFC! TFC!” and it got louder and louder and it reassured the players that the fans were there to support them regardless of the outcome. It settled the Reds, gave them back their confidence and that led to a couple of goals and a 2-1 halftime lead. The unwavering support for the past 10 years was felt that night and will be again for the finals on December 10th against the Seattle Sounders. Buckle up people; it’s going to be another wonderful ride.
As epic as the game and the series was, it really is too early to tell just how much this game will impact the growth of soccer in Canada. The early signs from TSN indicate that a WHOPPING 4.4 million viewers watched at least part of the game which is an incredibly good number. Personally, I don’t think we will see a drastic increase next year, but like basketball and the Raptors, it will just take more time. More games like that will certainly help and so does winning. Bringing the MLS Cup to a city that is starved for a championship? Well, that might be the best help of all!
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