Toronto FC reached its third MLS Cup finals in four years and will once again face Seattle Sounders in the match for the title. Greg Vanney’s guys have made a massive upset this Wednesday night by eliminating the reigning champions, Atlanta United on the road, 1-2.
“The team went and like true champions found a way tonight to get it done,” Vanney said. “Played with heart, played with grit, played with real character, resilience, made plays.”
Toronto’s miraculous season continues because they started playing their best football when needed the most. The Canadians haven’t lost the previous 13 matches, saving the best for the last.
Though, Atlanta had a perfect situation to advance to their second straight MLS Cup. They took the lead after just five minutes, and had a penalty shortly afterward. At first, Julian Gressel didn’t have any trouble with executing Gonzalo Martinez‘s assists following a counter-attack.
Four minutes later, Martinez was in the middle of attention again, as Michael Bradley brought down Atlanta’s player in the box, with the referee pointing towards the penalty spot.
Josef Martinez took the responsibility, but the last year’s MVP couldn’t beat Quentin Westberg, who stopped the shot.
The punishment for this missed opportunity came really fast. Laurent Ciman finished a counter-attack in the 14th minute to calm down the wild crowd at the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The result stayed the same until the halftime, although we might say that the hosts had an initiative on the pitch.
Both sides were quiet until the late part of the contest, when Nick DeLeon sent a perfect shot outside the box, that beat Brad Guzan. It was a shocker for all the home-team fans.
Atlanta was better when looking at the statistics. They had a bigger possession, 59%-41%, had more goal attempts and shots on goal, Toronto’s Westberg had to intervene on four occasions.
Hosts’ head coach Frank de Boer was a bit disappointed, and he particularly mentioned the situation which preceded a penalty. He believes that Bradley should have been sent off instead of getting just a yellow car.
“We had our chances,” de Boer told reporters. “The penalty and maybe a red card — I don’t know what the rules exactly are. You see a lot of times they give a red card in that moment and a penalty, and now they gave a yellow card.”
Toronto FC entered the MLS Cup finals without Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzales, arguably the two biggest stars on this crew. Vanney spoke about the fact that many didn’t believe in his team due to all the adversities they faced.
“We were missing a couple of guys, but the group of guys that were out there, nobody outside of our club thought could maybe get it done except maybe our fans and us.”
A rivalry against the Seattle Sounders is already becoming epic. The two met in 2017 and 2018 MLS Cup finals, and both sides recorded one win. The finals will take place on November 10 at the CenturyLink Field in Seattle.