Jozy Altidore's legendary playoff moment sends Toronto FC to MLS Cup

FC Yahoo
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/jozy-altidore/" data-ylk="slk:Jozy Altidore">Jozy Altidore</a> beats <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/soccer/players/zackary-steffen/" data-ylk="slk:Zack Steffen">Zack Steffen</a> with the only goal of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals. (Getty)
Jozy Altidore beats Zack Steffen with the only goal of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals. (Getty)

Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC have waited almost a year for a second chance. Eleven months and 19 days, to be exact. And on Wednesday night, at the site of their heartbreak 11 months and 19 days ago, Altidore ensured they’d get it.

The American striker, a month and a half after his own personal heartbreak in Trinidad, scored a goal that will live long in MLS lore. A goal that will bring MLS Cup back to BMO Field next Saturday, Dec. 9. A goal that wouldn’t have been possible if Altidore had succumbed to the pain.

Minutes before he scored it, Altidore wasn’t even on the field. At the start of the second half, with TFC and Columbus locked at 0-0 on aggregate, Crew defender Harrison Afful slipped on the slick BMO turf. He rolled up on Altidore. The TFC frontman writhed on the grass in pain. He limped off, then back on, then sunk back to the turf. He seemingly couldn’t continue.

Toronto manager Greg Vanney readied a substitute. Altidore was sitting on the side of the pitch right in front of the TFC bench. Armando Cooper had stripped off his warmup, thrown on his jersey, and was up by the fourth official.

But no. Altidore was going to give it one more go. And what a go it was.

“I couldn’t leave the game,” he told Fox Sports 1 after the match. “I felt like I had more to give. And that there was a chance coming.”

He was right.

This time he limped back on, and broke into a jog. He pushed through the pain. Minutes later, he combined exquisitely with Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez, latched onto Vazquez’s perfectly-weighted through-ball, and scored an improbable winner.

He broke TFC’s 258-minute playoff scoring drought, stretching back to the first leg of the conference semifinals. He eased fears that a historic regular season might be all for naught. His fans screamed. The stadium shook. It will get its second chance, too.

Columbus fought valiantly. It switched to a 3-4-2-1 formation that had TFC tentative, and in adjustment mode in the first half. It had chances that it will rue for months, if not years, after Altidore’s goal. Justin Meram sent a 12-yard shot sailing over the bar. With around 10 minutes remaining, a teasing cross squirmed agonizingly through the penalty area.

In the first half, Toronto looked set to take a lead when Josh Williams hauled down Drew Moor in the penalty area on a corner. But Zack Steffen, for not the first time on Columbus’ magical run, came up huge. He dove to his right to parry away Vazquez’s spot kick.

Seven of the last 13 penalties taken against Steffen in MLS have been missed, including shootouts. He kept things level, and frankly, the Crew were the better team in the first half.

And they deserved MLS Cup. Their fans did. The city did. Absentee owner Anthony Precourt looks set to move the team to Austin, Texas, meaning those fans might only have one more year with their beloved club. They have fought valiantly themselves to keep the club that is rightfully theirs. They enjoyed a memorable night in Atlanta, and an unforgettable one at home the following week. But they might have just witnessed their last MLS playoff game ever.

Toronto, however, deserved this as well. It will likely get a rematch with the Seattle Sounders, 364 days after losing on penalties on a frigid night last December. It will get its second chance.

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Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.

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