Toronto FC’s regular season home finale could be best described in Greg Vanney’s words as “The weirdest 1-0 match I’ve ever seen.” It was precisely that. Despite it being the 401 Derby against hated rival Montreal Impact the game was not as memorable as their most recent encounters. Montreal for one will be missing the playoffs for the first time in 3 years and TFC have had to deal with several players returning from overseas and injury after the international break. Rythym was never established by either team.
Windy overcast weather preceded the game with glimpses of sunshine early in the evening. The high winds made it difficult for both teams and players needed to adjust their passes and shots to the conditions. An early shot off the cross bar from Marky Delgado did not exactly spark TFC. 10 minutes later however an accidental pass by Laurent Ciman sent Altidore in alone and the American made no mistake making it 1-0.
Montreal’s best chance of the half came in the 19th minute with some assistance from the wind. Drew Moor missed his header as the ball sailed across the pitch finding Matteo Mancosu who was on a breakaway but his weak shot was saved by Bono. Mancosu again was robbed by Bono in the 45th as a rebound spilled right to the former Bologna striker who had the shot saved by an outstretched hand. 2 minutes later Sebastian Giovinco was hauled down and sent to the penalty spot. Initially Giovinco hit the left post but after a clear leap forward before the kick by ‘keeper Crepeau, the Atomic Ant would retake the kick. It was deja vu as the Italian hit the exact same post ending off a dreary first half.
The second half began with a bizarre chance for Montreal, their best of the night. A long range shot ricochet off both posts right to Mancosu who couldn’t handle the bouncing ball which was scooped up by Bono, a hattrick of missed chances for Mancosu. The rest of the match was uneventful. It was characterized by surprisingly poor play from TFC. Throughout the game the Reds were missing passes and getting caught out of position. Usually lateral and quick on the flanks TFC played an uncharacteristic narrow game on the night. The lack of mobility showed throughout the second half. Several calls from the referee were inconsistent as well, which didn’t help to appease the viewing pleasure of the 27,866 spectators on hand. After the match Greg Vanney described the match as, “lacking fluidity and the timing of our players was off. The group hasn’t been together much recently because of international duties and injuries. That continuity is something we’re going to build again heading into the playoffs.”
(TFC’s Drake inspired pre-match tifo celebrating Supporters’ Shield photo courtesy of @joshuakloke)
In the end the win was enough to make history as the Reds reached 68 points on the season, tying the record for most points in a season with the 1998 LA Galaxy. The Supporters Shield was also in the building as it was officially presented to the team and its long suffering fans. The Montreal Impact will end their disappointing season against New England at home. Unlike other memorable clashes between the two dies Montreal left Toronto with a whimper. Expect the veteran side to be very busy in the off season both on and off the pitch.
Sebastian Giovinco played his first game since September 9 and it showed. The Italian star looked rusty being a step behind on his runs and not as sharp in front of goal. He did have several shots on goal but the missed penalty clearly frustrated him. His play will improve, it is merely a case of Seba finding his legs again with more playing time as the playoffs approach. TFC will need him more than ever come November. Toronto’s last match of the season will be on October 22 in Atlanta against a team fighting for playoff seeding. The Reds need at least a point to set the new MLS record for points in a season which would be a feather in the cap of arguably the greatest regular season team in league history.