TORONTO – Wednesday’s clash between Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact was one of the more thrilling in MLS playoff history and, when all was said and done, TFC stood tall as the club moved towards MLS Cup.
A quick double from TFC in the first half of extra time booked the Canadian club’s spot in the 2016 MLS Cup final thanks to a 5-2, win in the second of the Eastern Conference final. TFC advanced 7-5 on aggregate while sealing hosting rights for the MLS Cup finale in Dec. 10.
Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts scored the clinching goals in extra time after Nick Hagglund tied the match on aggregate in the 68th minute. Jozy Altidore and Armando Cooper also struck for the hosts. Dominic Oduro and Ignacio Piatti were on the scoresheet for the Impact.
TFC will now face the Seattle Sounders in the MLS Cup final on Dec. 10 at BMO Field. This is the first appearance in the final for both teams. Toronto is also the first Canadian side in league history to reach this stage.
The match began at a frantic pace as TFC controled the majority of possession. The Impact were content to absorb the pressure and it resulted in a few close calls for the visitors. A long punt from Clint Irwin found Altidore, who turned past Montreal defender Victor Cabrera, picked out Sebastian Giovinco, but Marco Donadel made a crucial sliding tackle to block the shot at the top of the box.
As the first half continued, the game grew in intensity with several hard tackles flying in. The most cringworthy challenge came from Altidore, who hit Hernan Bernardello in the head with a flying challenge. The Argentine midfielder stayed down for a couple of minutes, but he returned to the pitch despite laying motionless on the field right after the incident.
Once the game calmed down, Montreal found space on the counter and caught TFC’s midfield high up the pitch. Matteo Mancosu found Dominic Oduro with a stunning through ball and the Ghanaian converted in the bottom corner of the goal to open the scoring.
TFC bagged the equalizer about 15 minutes later off a corner as Armando Cooper struck from point blank range off a loose ball. Then, off another set piece, Altidore made a run towards the near post, Giovinco picked him out, and the American made no mistake to give Toronto the lead.
However, the Impact restored the advantage early in the second half. Substitute Johan Venegas picked out Piatti before his deflected shot found its way into the net. It appeared as if Dominic Oduro obstructed Steven Beitashour in an offside position as the TFC defender tried to clear the ball, but the goal still stood.
The craziness ensued after the Impact’s second of the night and the hosts pulled level off a towering header from Hagglund in the center of the box. Piatti and Giovinco both fired wide as the second half came to a close, but neither team found a decisive goal and sent the match to extra time.
TFC was dealt a severe blow to begin the first half of extra time as Giovinco exited the match after he appeared to pull his hamstring after shooting from the top of the box. His substitute, Cheyrou, scored with his first touch to give Toronto a 4-2 lead. Tosaint Ricketts added a fifth just moments later to seal the hosts’ spot in the MLS Cup final.
Toronto and Seattle played each other just once this season. The match finished in a 1-1 draw on July 3 at BMO Field. The Sounders have won seven of the 11 all-time meetings.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Jozy Altidore scored TFC’s second goal of the night, but he was immense for the full 120 minutes. The American was making dangerous runs, he was involved in the buildup play and set up his teammates on a few occasions.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
In a match full of entertainment, Benoit Cheyrou‘s strike was clearly the moment to remember. The French midfielder entered the game in the 97th minute and less than 60 seconds later, he buried a header to seal TFC’s spot in the MLS Cup final.
MATCH TO FORGET
Despite the win, Drew Moor‘s performance was disappointing. The TFC defender has been solid throughout the year, but he was caught out of position on a few occasions on Wednesday night.