Toronto FC turned back the clock Saturday night, providing a reminder of how good they can be.
Toronto scored four unanswered goals to keep its slender playoff hopes alive with a 4-1 win over the New England Revolution. It may be too little too late but, like a good wedding photo, served as a pleasant reminder of past good celebrations.
“I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t cross my mind how is this team not in the playoffs picture right now,” said coach Greg Vanney.
“It for sure went through my mind … What I’m 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,” added Vanney.
Toronto — which won the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield and Canadian championship last year — came into the game knowing that a loss or tie coupled with a Montreal win would end its post-season chances.
TFC still in the playoff hunt:
D.C. United did its bit, thumping the Impact 5-0 to keep Toronto mathematically in the hunt. With four games remaining — including one at Montreal, which currently occupies the sixth and last playoff berth in the East — TFC is seven points out of the post-season.
New England was poor on the night while Toronto — at least in the second half — showed signs of the team that rolled through the league last year.
Sebastian Giovinco, Lucas Jansson, Victor Vazquez and Marky Delgado scored for Toronto (9-15-6) before 24,710 at BMO Field on Canadian Forces Appreciation Night.
Cristian Penilla replied for New England (8-11-11), which was second-best in the second half.
It marked the first time this season in league play that Toronto has won after conceding the first goal (1-14-1).
Tied 1-1 at the break, Toronto thought it had gone ahead on a Jonathan Osorio goal in the 48th minute. But, much to TFC’s disgust, it was called off for an Osorio foul in the buildup to the play.
Jansson gave Toronto the lead in the 53rd minute, taking a nifty flick from Giovinco, who was lively all night, and then knocking his own rebound in off a defender. Vazquez then scored from the penalty spot in the 58th minute — his eighth of the season — after Jalil Anibaba brought down Bradley in the box.
Delgado put the cherry on the cake in the 81st minute, heading in his first of the season after a Brad Knighton save came right to him.
‘We’re going to continue to fight’
Ninth-place Toronto remains under the gun. Even if it wins its remaining games, it can finish no higher than 45 points. In that scenario, Montreal can finish with as many as 46. Seventh-place D.C. United could be the wild card, given it has a game in hand and could reach 50 points.
TFC hosts Vancouver next Saturday before playing at D.C. United and Montreal and then wrapping up the regular season against Atlanta.
Bradley, who allowed himself a smile on the pitch after the final whistle, liked the performance but was not about to pop champagne.
“It’s one game, a good game for sure. But we’re not going to make any sweeping conclusions based on one game,” he said. “We have a good team, we know that. We’ve let ourselves down on a few too many days this year. We’ve also been let down by a lot of things this year.
“So it’s not the time to talk about that kind of stuff. We’re going to continue to fight, we’re going to continue to play, we’re going to continue to try to take care of our business. We still have direct games with D.C. and Montreal. Until someone says the math no longer checks out, we’re going to keep trying to play and put wins together and we’ll see where that takes us.”