MLS Playoffs: Toronto FC stars come to play

Ten years. That's the time it took Toronto FC to finally win its first playoff game. Its three stars -- Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley -- all had roles in Wednesday's 3-1 win over Philadelphia. Next up: No. 2 Eastern Conference seed New York City.



Since he got healthy after returning from his latest hamstring injury, Altidore has carried Toronto FC. He had 10 goals and three assists in the last 15 games of the regular season, and his goal and assist helped TFC beat Philadelphia, which is still looking for its first playoff win.

MLS teams without playoff win:
YEARS TEAM
7 Philadelphia
6 Vancouver
2 Orlando City
1 *New York City
*Plays Toronto FC in conference semifinals.

Goals by Giovinco and Jonathan Osorio staked Toronto FC to a 2-0 lead after 48 minutes, and Altidore, who set up Giovinco's opening goal, added an insurance goal late in the game after Alejandro Bedoya had reduced the lead.

"Starting at the top," said TFC coach Greg Vanney, "Jozy was just huge. He played big, he played physical, at times he just looked possessed to track down the ball and take it away from people. He used his size and that was big for us, in a game where there wasn’t a whole lot of passing the ball around, it was a game where both teams were pressing each other pretty quickly for large stretches of it. We had to play forward quick and use him as a release a lot of times, and he was fantastic at bringing guys in the play, holding up the play, fighting and competing for first balls so that we could win second balls."

Giovinco missed five games with an adductor injury and his goal on Sunday against Chicago was his first in two months.

"Seba who was just coming back from a long injury, he was digging in the whole game," Vanney said after Wednesday's win, "and you just see the flashes of brilliance that he has is off the charts and the things that he is capable of doing. I thought all through the game he was active, he was part of trying to get us out of tight situations, keep the team moving forward, finishing attacks, he was incredibly busy and active."

Bradley had a lot of work to do in front of the three-man backline in the 3-5-2 Vanney again used after trying it out Sunday against the Fire.
 
"He was quick to get over there and work with other players to pick off balls," said Vanney, "jump on the second ball and I thought it was one of his best games of the year in terms of breaking up plays. I think it was one of those games because there wasn’t a ton of possession, you didn’t see Michael orchestrating a lot of plays but he did the other side of it, doing the dogged work of cleaning up things in midfield and keeping the ball moving to the next guy."

Oct. 26 in Toronto
Toronto FC 3 Philadelphia 1.
TFC: Sebastian Giovinco (Jozy Altidore) 15
TFC: Jonathan Osorio (Nick Hagglund, Sebastian Giovinco) 48
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya (Richie Marquez, Ilsinho) 73
TFC: Jozy Altidore 85
Toronto FC -- Irwin; Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund; Beitashour, Cooper (Cheyrou 70), Bradley, Osorio (Johnson 66), Morrow; Altidore (Ricketts 88), Giovinco.
Philadelphia -- Blake; Rosenberry (Davies 84), Tribbett, Marquez, Fabinho; Bedoya, Creavalle, Herbers (Ilsinho 59), Barnetta, Pontius; Sapong (Alberg 70).
Yellow Cards: Toronto FC -- Bradley 14, Altidore 45+1; Philadelphia -- Sapong 25, Bedoya 43, Tribbett 90.
Att.: 21,759.
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