Toronto completes miracle, qualifies for CCL
Requiring victory by a four-goal margin in the rain-soaked Stade Saputo in Montreal Thursday night, Toronto FC put on an emphatic attacking display to sweep aside an under-strength Montreal Impact side 6-1. The win allowed TFC to beat out the Vancouver Whitecaps to the Canadian Nutrilite Championship title on goal difference, thereby winning the first trophy in team history and ensuring the club's entry into the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League as Canada's sole representative.
Montreal left Roberto Brown, Rocco Placentino and Sandro Grande on the bench for what was a match of little significance for it. Last year's champion team had been abysmal this term, losing all its games. From the kick off, TFC burst forward in numbers, looking for an early goal to give it belief in its herculean mission.
With the heavens pouring down, the pitch was particularly difficult to play on with the ball zipping off the surface. Despite Toronto's pressure, it was Leonardo Di Lorenzo for Montreal who produced the first moment of danger at the other end. His curling shot sailing over the bar after good work from David Testo.
Amado Guevara started to dictate play as Toronto tried to translate its monopoly in possession into meaningful chances. The TFC players, mindful that their last four-goal triumph came two years prior against FC Dallas, needed to register an early advantage to spur themselves on.
However, when Nick Garcia tripped Peter Byers in the penalty box, it was the Impact who won a penalty. Tony Donatelli calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner as Sebastian Frei guessed the wrong way, giving Montreal a 1-0 lead and seemingly ending all hope for Toronto, as it now had to score five unanswered goals.
Instead of allowing their heads to drop, TFC continued to attack with menace, winning successive corners. Dwayne De Rosario produced a magnificent close rang overhead kick to tie the game at 1-1 in the 30th minute. TFC pressed forward once more, Danny Dichio's bullet of a header went just wide from a fantastic De Rosario cross.
Pablo Vitti produced a carbon copy of De Rosario's overhead kick, but Byers cleared his shot off the line. Yet TFC was not to be denied for long. De Rosario managed to put the Reds in the ascendancy with 39 minutes on the clock as his angled shot deflected off a defender and into the net from a Jim Brennan cross. Toronto could have gone in two goals to the good had Dichio managed to keep down a late header. At half time, TFC was 2-1 up and needed three more goals to win its first ever trophy.
Interim head coach Chris Cummins made a bold change at the break, bringing on Chad Barrett for Vitti. This move proved to be a masterstroke as Barrett played De Rosario through with a delightful pass. One on one with the keeper, De Ro buried his shot into the back of the net for his hat trick, the first ever three-goal haul in the Canadian Nutrilite Championship.
The Reds were now playing a dangerous game, leaving only Adrian Serioux and Garcia at the back. The incessant pressure applied on the home side's goal produced the goods for Toronto once again. Guevara scored a free kick from the edge of the box in typical style; his shot going over the wall and nestling into the inside netting with the goalkeeper scrambling.
TFC exhausted their quota of substitutions by bringing on Marco Velez for Serioux and Fuad Ibrahim for Nana Attakora. However, it was the halftime switch that proved vital for Toronto. Barrett scored off a Guevara corner to complete the improbable: 5-1 to TFC. His header bounced into the roof of the net, sending the sizable contingent of TFC fans into delirium. With eight minutes left, Toronto could ill afford to concede. Montreal finally got to enjoy a decent spell of possession with the visitors content to defend their advantage.
Super sub Barrett was still not done, though. His flick from inside the area found Guevara, who calmly slotted the ball inside the right post for his second of the game and Toronto's sixth. Capping off a truly remarkable performance from the MLS side to take home its first meaningful silverware.
TFC will now look to replicate this superlative performance in MLS to cement its place in the playoffs for the first time in club history.