Didn’t see that coming, did ya? Toronto FC, missing five regulars and playing the most recent LigaMX champions went out and did a job. After drawing Club Leon 1-1 in Mexico, they outright won 2-1 last night to capture the tie 3-2 on aggregate.
It’s hard to remember the last time a result seemed so delightfully unexpected for the Reds. Perhaps the 2019 Eastern Conference Final win in Atlanta, but even then it was a team that had high expectations. Although that was an upset, it wasn’t nearly as surprising.
Last night felt like something closer to a shock result that TFC occasionally got back in the bad old days – maybe the win over the Galaxy in 2012. Yeah, I think that’s the one. There hasn’t been a result that felt as delightfully unexpected as last night since the Worst Team in the World took down Beckham and the Boys eight years ago.
Saying that is a bit unfair, of course. Much of this TFC team finished second overall last season in the Shield race. We shouldn’t be shocked that they can get a result, but we are. Part of that is because Greg Vanney is gone and no one knows what to expect from Chris Armas yet.
I’m hearing less complaining about the hire tonight than I did a few weeks ago. Early days, but the pressing game didn’t seem to be too much for the old bodies. Patrick Mullins was a disruptive force up top (and was rewarded with a goal), Justin Morrow managed to chip in off the bench and what can you say about Michael Bradley.
You can say that he was everywhere and was showing a spark that we haven’t seen for a couple years (although I would and have argued that Bradley was the best player on the pitch during that disaster of a game against Nashville last year).
One of the reasons that the old legs looked OK was likely because there were so many young legs on the pitch.
The kids were amazing. Noble Okello was robbed of a goal and was dangerous throughout. Jacob Shaffelburg put in another shift of the wing. Jordan Perruzza did some important work killing time late.
And Luke Singh, signed to his second 4-day contract of the Spring, might have earned himself a roster spot permanently. Although, he still has some work to do on his game, he was able to slot in and perform admirably -- putting his boot through the ball whenever it was in doubt, but also showing the poise of a veteran to play the ball out when appropriate. At worse, he’s given us all a reason to watch Toronto FC II when they start back next month.
Singh underlines what was most exciting about the night – beyond the win, obviously. That is, he showed how much of TFC’s system is reliant on the ability to plug and play these young guys. If you have a bunch of homegrowns that can do as good as these guys did last night then it’s easy to get excited about what this team can be when they add just a little bit more creativity.
And by a little bit, I mean 2020 MLS MVP Alejandro Pozuelo. Seriously, let yourself dream for a second about what magic Pozuelo can create with those turnovers that the kids are creating.
Ultimately, that’s the biggest thing that tonight gave TFC fans. Sure, they get at least two more games in the CCL , but even more importantly they have given Toronto fans hope that the Armas era won’t skip a beat and that the team can remain among MLS’ very best.