Tuesday, July 27

Toronto FC still believes and win at Chicago was a big step

CHICAGO — After so many weeks of disappointing results and negative storylines, Toronto FC is eager to turn the page.

Saturday night’s 2-1 win here was a considerable step in the right direction, as long as wins this week over Ottawa and again against Chicago, this time at home, follow.

With crucial defender Chris Mavinga finally back and striker Jozy Altidore also suddenly out with the other regulars, this is suddenly a very different group. One that might be rusty and still missing some parts yet, but is very familiar with each other and understands how good it can be.

“We’ve encountered a ton of variables, the outside person could hardly even imagine the amount of variables the group has encountered through the CCL to this period and the challenge for our guys is to not allow those variables to define us, to understand exactly who we are, which is the team that won three championships last year,” said head coach Greg Vanney after the game.

“Which is the team that went to the CCL finals, was a PK away from winning it, one play away, that’s the team we are. Sometimes when you go through challenges, you get on the wrong side of momentum, but that’s not who we are. (Saturday night) is a sample of who we are and we still have more levels we can continue to push.”

Altidore made sure to praise those who have tried to hold the fort in the midst of all of the injuries.

Jonathan Osorio certainly stands out in that regard. Osorio had the winner at Ottawa last Wednesday, the winner on Saturday and has already scored more times this season than ever before, even with the potential distraction of his expiring contract hovering in the air.

“Whatever you want to say, we’re still in this thing and so the guys that were healthy did that (got them some points) and now it’s our turn to kind of give us a jolt to help us kick off (a winning streak),” Altidore said.


It was almost odd to see the Starting XI because it looked familiar, yet a relic from an earlier age.

The lineup was nearly what the club rolled out to open the MLS season way back on March 1 with only two changes from that group (Ashtone Morgan for the now exiled Ager Axetke and Marco Delgado for Victor Vazquez — and Vazquez eventually entered this match in the 80th minute).

That first match was the only other game both Mavinga and Altidore have been in TFC’s lineup for an MLS outing this season.

Vanney’s going to have a new, but far preferable, problem in the near future if Drew Moor and Auro, both stabilizing, starting defenders, continue to progress as they have been and are match fit sometime in the next two weeks. Mavinga is obviously crucial at the back and the team brought in Gregory van der Wiel to be a starter on defence, while Vanney spoke glowingly of Eriq Zavaleta after one of his best outings of the year. Depending on formations and even with all-star Justin Morrow on the wing, the once stripped bare backline will suddenly be flush with quality options for the coach.

He won’t be complaining about it.


Both teams have not fared as well as they expected to so far this season, so it’s not surprising the game had a bit of an edge, especially in the opening half.

Altidore wasn’t thrilled about some calls not going his way or some missed touches as he battled to get comfortable with his timing and touch in his first action in weeks. After a few moments of frustration, Altidore sent the Fire’s Aleksandar Katai to the ground. Altidore at least apologized and gave Katai a bit of a hug as the crowd grumbled. It came right after Altidore had been called for a handball and not long after he had held his head after a good scoring chance had been deflected away harmlessly by a defender.

Katai got some measure of revenges by chipping a ball in the net over Alex Bono well after he had been whistled off-side. The Toronto goalkeeper was not thrilled by the move and let Katai know about it.

Altidore was playing with a clear edge and was a bit like a bull in a china shop. Chicago had few answers for him. When Jorge Corrales tried to slow him down as the first half neared its close by latching on to Altidore for several seconds, a frustrated Altidore tried to shrug him off and ended up splitting him open with an inadvertent elbow. Unfortunately for Corrales, he justifiably picked up the yellow card even though he was left lying on the field. Corrales had to be subbed out of the match.


The future of Canadian soccer, Alphonso Davies, is reportedly on the cusp of signing a deal with a base of $12 million U.S. with Bayern Munich. The previous record for an MLS player making the jump overseas? That would be Altidore from the New York Red Bulls to Villarreal in 2008 for $10 million (though this non-financial expert guesses the Altidore deal would still be higher if adjusted for inflation) … Saturday brought lots of good news for TFC. Besides the three points gained, Philadelphia, New England, Orlando and D.C. United all lost, while Montreal grabbed a single point. If everything breaks right for Toronto in the next week, by late Saturday night, the club could be level with Orlando, a point behind Chicago, two behind Philadelphia and six back of the final playoff spot. To paraphrase Jim Carrey: You’re telling me there’s a chance, though it won’t be an easy road.

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