TORONTO — Toronto FC may have been eliminated from playoff contention weeks ago, but on Saturday the beleaguered team made sure to do its part in ensuring that a rival will join it on the outside looking in.
Though the Reds' 1-0 win over the Montreal Impact at BMO Field does not eliminate the once high-flying Quebec side from the postseason, it does put a huge dent in what weeks ago seemed like surefire qualification. The Impact will now have to wait for other results to go their way before making arrangements for the start of the MLS playoffs next week, and that suits TFC just fine.
"It was playing a lot into our motivation, they're our archrivals and as a Toronto boy, as a supporter, it means even more to me," midfielder Jonathan Osorio said after the match. "Hopefully we did play spoiler. We did our job, and now it's up to the other teams to do theirs."
Much has been made of yet another wasted campaign for TFC, but when it came to games against its main rival, Toronto has almost always made things uncomfortable for the Impact. Saturday's result stretched Montreal's winless streak at BMO Field to five full seasons, as the Reds have held court or better against the Impact in every match played at home since the two teams first faced off in the Canadian Championship in 2008.
That being said, the fact that TFC was once again able to best the Impact at the foot of Lake Ontario came as a bit of a surprise for a Toronto team that was expecting much more of a battle given Montreal's dimming playoff hopes.
"If you came today and didn't know what was happening in the league and how the playoffs have been and everything, and how the teams have been this whole season, you wouldn't know who was going for the playoffs," said striker Robert Earnshaw, whose 16th-minute goal decided the match despite several gilt-edged chances for his side. "I think everything clicked today. Our possession was good, we scored a goal, we defended very well, so we were pleased with our performance."
Not trying to make the entire day about the rivalry, coach Ryan Nelsen said Saturday's performance was also about a team getting used to the high-pressure atmosphere that successful teams find themselves in frequently.
For Nelsen, his side passed the test.
"These are playoff-atmosphere games, we have to get used to this kind of atmosphere, because we want to be playing in it," Nelsen said. "The pressure that we put the players under was a playoff type of pressure. We tried to reinforce it all through the training over the past weeks, and to their credit they looked like the team that was going to the playoffs."
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