This. Game. Was. Fun. As much as I hated myself for sitting through 90 minutes of Union vs. Rapids, that’s how great this one was (highlights above).
There were stars — Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Octavio Rivero all made their Major League Soccer debuts; there were goals — one for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and three for Toronto FC, to be exact; there were goalscoring chances near every time down the field — 28 shots combined.
[ READ: PST’s 2015 team-by-team MLS previews ]
Let alone a full debut, Rivero had himself an interesting first 20 minutes in MLS, as the 23-year-old Uruguayan forward delivered both the miss of the season — it will stand the test of time — and the kind of finishing ability that led so many to pick the Whitecaps for a playoff place this season.
The miss came in the 8th minute as Rivero couldn’t apply the finish to Jordan Harvery’s inviting cross with the goalmouth wide open. The goal came barely 10 minutes later as Rivero latched onto Pa Modou Kah’s ball over the top, beat the last remaining defender and slotted a low shot past Joe Bendik.
Giovinco experienced a slow introduction to the league as his total number of touches in the game’s early stages will surely have frustrated head coach Greg Vanney. Giovinco almost made Vancouver pay, though, when the ball fall to the Italian down the left of Toronto’s penalty area, but his left-footed shot rolled inches wide moments before Rivero’s opening goal.
Giovinco’s impact was felt in a big way just past the half-hour mark, as his clever through ball put Altidore inside the six-yard box with only ‘keeper David Ousted to beat. Altidore kept his composure in a situation he might have scuffed at Sunderland, calmly rounded Ousted and lifted the ball into the back of the net.
The first chance of the second half fell TFC’s way as Bradley had a go from 25 yards out, hammering a loose ball through the Vancouver defense and fizzed inches wide of Ousted’s right-hand post.
Robbie Findley scored the game-winner with a close-range finish in the 59th minute. Benoit Cheyrou played Justin Morrow down the left wing and Morrow provided the inviting cross to the top of the six-yard box, where Findley lifted the ball into the roof of the net. The goal was Findley’s first since joining TFC from Real Salt Lake in the offseason.
Altidore bagged his second of the day after winning a penalty deep into regular time. Kah brought Altidore down inside the penalty area, Altidore took the spot kick, opted for the audacious “Panenka” chip and converted to put the exclamation point on a thoroughly deserved three points for TFC.
Saturday’s 2-1 victory matches TFC’s Pacific Northwest trip to begin the 2014 season, in which they knocked off the Seattle Sounders, 2-1. TFC missed the playoffs last year, of course, so only time will tell whether this TFC team is truly “different.”
Vancouver Whitecaps: Ousted, Beitashour, Waston, Kah, Harvey, Laba (Hurtado 82′), Teibert (Koffie 64′), Rosales (Mattocks 65′), Morales, Manneh, Rivero
Goals: Rivero (19′)
Toronto FC: Bendik, Creavalle, Caldwell, Perquis, Morrow, Osorio, Bradley, Cheyrou, Giovinco (Moore 79′), Altidore, Findley (Warner 77′)
Goals: Altidore (32′, 90′), Findley (59′)