TORONTO (The Sports Xchange) – After 90 minutes of possibly the best playoff game in Major League Soccer (MLS) history, few were complaining that 30 minutes more were needed to separate rivals Toronto FC and Montreal Impact.
Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts scored in extra time as Toronto (TFC) beat Montreal 5-2 in the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference final, sealing a 7-5 aggregate victory as TFC advanced to its first MLS Cup final.
“It was a crazy match. The scoreline alone at 5-2 in a conference final was amazing,” said Ricketts, a Canadian international who joined TFC in July after bouncing around in Europe the last few years.
“I’m so proud of the guys. We battled back many times in the game and showed so much character. It was a very special moment for all of us.”
Toronto, the first Canadian team to reach the MLS title game, will host the final Dec. 10 against the Western Conference champion Seattle Sounders.
Toronto led 3-2 at the end of 90 minutes, leaving the teams tied at 5-5 on aggregate over the two legs.
Montreal won at home by the same 3-2 score on Nov. 22 in the first leg.
In the 97th minute, Frenchman Cheyrou entered the game when Sebastian Giovinco came off injured. Moments later, Cheyrou headed home a cross from Steven Beitashour from the right side and sent the 36,000 fans at BMO Field into delirium.
“(Cheyrou) is a guy with tons of experience, and he sniffed out something could come to the back post,” said Toronto head coach Greg Vanney.
“It was a great service with the left foot by (Beitashour). You don’t have to tell too much to guys like that who have been around the block. They’ve got a pretty good sense of what’s going on in the game.”
Ricketts, himself a substitute, was in the right place to redirect a Jozy Altidore cross from close range two minutes after Cheyrou’s goal.
After trailing 2-1 at halftime, Montreal tied the score on an Ignacio Piatti goal in the 53rd minute.
But extra time became necessary when TFC defender Nick Hagglund’s powerful header on a set piece following a corner gave Toronto a 3-2 lead in the 68th minute.
Earlier, in the 24th minute, former Toronto FC player Dominic Oduro haunted his former club for the second straight game. Oduro opened the scoring last week in Montreal and did the same again when he converted a Matteo Mancosu pass to give Montreal a two-goal aggregate advantage.
Toronto got one back when Armando Cooper scored from close range in the 37th minute.
Altidore gave Toronto the invaluable second goal right on the stroke of halftime, heading home a corner at the near post.
“We had difficulty on crosses. We had to do better on the second goal, that’s for sure,” Montreal coach Mauro Biello said.
Three of the goals Montreal conceded were from corners, and the two goals in extra time were on crosses.
“At the end, we had a few chances. We didn’t play too badly and we were able to score two goals away from home, but a few mistakes cost us greatly,” Bello said.
(Editing by Andrew Both)