Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC Shows Its Mettle in Playoff Win over NYCFC in Eastern Semifinal Opener

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Toronto FC Shows Its Mettle in Playoff Win over NYCFC in Eastern Semifinal Opener

Article excerpt

Toronto FC shows its mettle in playoff win

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TORONTO - Halfway through the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal, there are signs that something special is happening at Toronto FC.

Backed by a loud, proud and noisy crowd at BMO Field, Greg Vanney's team scored two late goals in a performance long on resolve and character to take a 2-0 lead over New York City FC into the return leg next Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Jozy Altidore's 84th-minute goal snapped a feisty stalemate before substitute Tosaint Ricketts added another in stoppage time to give Toronto a decided edge. NYCFC needs to keep Toronto off the scoreboard and score at least twice to stay alive. And TFC can pile on the pressure with an away goal, which counts double in the event the aggregate score is tied after 180 minutes.

In a chippy game that saw five yellow cards shown to New York and just one to Toronto, the home side showed maturity and restraint -- with teammates pulling Altidore away when tempers flared after the final whistle. And TFC kept chipping away at the visitors until the goals finally came.

In another season, the game might have ended in a 0-0 stalemate -- especially with the visitors looking to defend. But Toronto showed its determination, turning the screws until NYCFC cracked.

"This is what we had talked about from the first day of pre-season this year," said Toronto captain Michael Bradley. "A team that on the toughest days could stand up. On the toughest days, could hold up to every challenge. Up until now that's the biggest game we've played in this season and every single guy who stepped on the field -- from the guys who started to the guys who came on the field -- came through in a big big way.

"It's another night that every guy on the inside of this locker-room should be very very proud of. It's also not over and we're very mindful of that."

Bradley was immense on the night, leading the team with 77 touches, 55 passes and nine tackles. He repeatedly robbed NYCFC players of possession.

"He's the engine on this team right now," said Toronto defender Drew Moor.

It was a chilly windy night at BMO Field but the 28,220 on hand made a lot of noise.

"It wasn't an easy game at all," said New York coach Patrick Vieira. "The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. And I think the fans were incredible."

Vanney called the crowd amazing.

"It was, for me, far and away the greatest night in the stadium in terms of the fans and the crowd and the energy."

"It's probably the best MLS atmosphere I've ever been in," added Moor, a 12-year veteran of the league. "it was unreal."

Once the league doormat that had to keep rolling back ticket prices to retain fans, Toronto FC is building a special rapport with its faithful. Banging the drum and leading the Viking clap in front of the south stand has become a player tradition with Altidore summoned to do the honours Sunday. …

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