It is no surprise anymore that the Toronto sports scene has been as exciting as it probably has ever been over the last few years. This past Monday night however, we were close to witnessing something I don’t believe we have ever seen here at all as three Toronto teams played on the same night and almost… almost, came away with three victories.
The Toronto Maple Leafs were in a mini two game losing slump as they headed to San Jose to face the Sharks. It was the return of Patrick Marlowe to the only other NHL team he has ever known in his 20 year playing career. The Leafs 3-2 loss not only spoiled that tender moment for Marlowe as he was honoured before the game, but it also ruined what was the first Toronto trifecta night ever.. or in a very long, long time anyway.
Seriously though, when was the last time that three Toronto sports teams were all playing on the same night; all of them on the road; and all of them winning? I cannot recall a single time that has happened and this is probably the closest we will come to that for the next little while. This mini slump would be much worse if it wasn’t for the Auston Matthews line. They have been playing extremely well, shift in shift out and on both ends of the ice. Tightening up the back end will be necessary going forward as well as some more consistent play from goalie Frederik Andersen.
The Toronto Raptors on the other hand, soundly defeated the Portland Trailblazers 99-85 that same night. Trust me, that score flatters the home team as the Dinos were leading by 20+ points for most of the game. The turning point being the entire second quarter as the Raptors outscored the Blazers 25-6. It was so bad for Portland that quarter they scored their one and only field goal with just 5 seconds remaining. So much talk has been about shooting 3’s but it the defence that was incredible that night and the main reason for the victory.
Which leads us to the other Toronto team to play Monday night, TFC. The Reds started their playoff journey on the road as they visited the New York Red Bulls. These two teams match up very well and even though Toronto FC has the edge on talent and leads the season series with a win and a tie, anything can happen in a short home-and-home series.
TFC went out and did what they have done all season long; find ways to get good scoring chances and minimize the impact of mistakes on the backend… mostly. Their 2-1 victory surely wasn’t perfect as they should have had 4 or 5, but getting 2 goals on the road is massive, forcing NYRB to come up with a bigger game themselves in the second leg this Sunday. Victor Vazquez opened the scoring in the 8th minute after a nice move and cross from Jozy Altidore. The Red Bulls tied it up right at the half time whistle when Daniel Royer converted a penalty shot. One of those momentary defensive blips TFC need to find a way of minimizing going forward.
The second half was great to watch as the play was literally going end-to-end with chances. In a game that should have been 5-4 or 7-6 it took something special from (who else) Sebastian Giovinco to break this deadlock. Stop me if you heard this before. Giovinco dances around the 18 yard box. He gets fouled. He takes the free kick and curls it in for a goal. That is the 7th time he has converted a free kick this year and 14th in the short 3 year span he has been in Toronto. Incredible.
All the offensive fireworks though may have been for naught if it wasn’t for some big saves from Alex Bono. No team can play perfectly for 90 minutes, specially against this New York team that likes to press and play uptempo. So despite the few scares during the game (that made many fans, myself included check to see if our hearts were still beating) TFC continue to play excellent football. The team battled for the full 90 minutes and other than potential injuries to Drew Moor and Victor Vazquez, should complete the victory on Sunday.
All in all it was a great Monday night of Toronto sports, sadly it came a goal or two short from being an historic one at that. Not going to be a pessimist here though, as winning 2 out of 3 away matches is still a step forward for GTA teams.
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