All eyes were on Jozy Altidore in the second half of the game vs. Columbus last night. The fall onto his ankle was just out of my line of sight. Yes, I was ball watching, although it happened down my end of the field. Down he went and it looked serious enough that the two Crew defenders were helping him up. He hobbled around, then sat down, then was attended to during a stoppage in play. We watched as he threw his shin guards to the east side, then was down again, then being attended to by the benches on the west side. Armando Cooper was summoned and seemed to be getting ready.
How this prolonged injury drama swiftly turned into a run onto a PERFECTLY placed pass from Victor Vazquez and firing low to beat the Crew's superb young keeper Zach Steffen to score the goal that sent TFC to MLS Cup final 2017, I'll never know. I witnessed it. But the next day it still seems like a blurry dream.
I was guilty of thinking one moment, c'mon Jozy, it's not that bad, run it off.
Then, c'mon Vanney, get on with a replacement.
Then, boom - the wonder of witnessing some beautiful soccer and Jozy claiming the goal that was required.
Still it was tense until that final whistle. Columbus was the team that I feared meeting most in the playoffs. The Crew were perhaps a toe away from the tie they needed as they missed some golden opportunities in those last minutes.
So TFC returns to hosting the MLS Cup final for the second year in a row. I am willing to argue that they have managed the "win ugly" or "just get to your destination" system needed for final Cup victory this time around.
Perhaps I have been watching way too much Netflix "Stranger Things" this fall. I am developing a theory that connects TFC with "the upside down", the alternate evil universe that parallels our own in unexpected ways.
TFC 2016 playoffs were a glorious goal fest. Knockout game = scored 3 goals, two legs against NYCFC = win 7-0 aggregate, two legs against Montreal = win 7-5 aggregate.
Then on to the Cup final. Man, did we expect goals galore. To the stunning dismay of every Toronto FC fan, Seattle comes in from "the upside down" and takes victory despite playing dull, dull football. The magical save of Frei on Altidore in extra time must have involved strange powers from a Netflix production. I do recall seeing odd flakes floating in the air at the time.
(I have spent time on the CNE grounds looking for the tree with the mushy cavity that the Sounders used for their Toronto arrival just prior to Cup 2016. No success yet, but photo evidence is eagerly sought.)
So, in my Stranger Things alternate evil universe, TFC learns and embraces "the upside down" for playoffs 2017. No running up the score. No firepower, no extended displays of offensive brilliance, just enough will do. A goal here and a goal there. TFC in playoffs 2017 have scored three goals and had two scored against them
They have vanquished all Eastern competition by pulling their powers from "the upside down". They seek to out-Seattle Seattle.
My tension begins to unwind. I start to entertain reasons why "Mistake by the Lake" should be adapted as a series for Netflix. I see "11" as both a starting number of players for a team and a memorable character. I think the pressure of anticipation of going to host the Cup again is going to mean more than my tension unwinds.
Keep warm, keep reading and keep it together.
December 9th awaits.
|No, not a second time|