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Pretty goals lead Toronto FC past Philadelphia (video)

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Toronto FC’s unusually slow start to the season took a step toward the norm on Friday, when the Reds kicked off the MLS weekend with a comfortable win over the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field.

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Here are three things of note from TFC’s 3-0 win, as Victor Vazquez, Sebastian Giovinco, and Jay Chapman lit the proverbial lamp.

Vazquez absence might’ve been key to TFC’s slow start

Here’s what I love most about this goal, even more than Sebastian Giovinco’s cutting through ball.

Look at TFC’s Jonathan Osorio and most of Philadelphia’s defense, which thinks the Reds’ hometown midfielder is going to connect with Nicolas Hasler’s cross.

Nope, Vazquez darts into the thick of the 18 to turn the ball inside the near post. Osorio’s even in the midst of winding up for a dig.

Beautiful.

The 31-year-old has scored in both of his MLS matches since returning from a back injury, having scored eight goals with 10 assists in last season’s MLS debut voyage.

He went 71 minutes in the CONCACAF Champions League Final’s second leg, having missed all of TFC’s 2-1 first leg in Canada.

All told, TFC went 2W-4L-1T in the seven matches he missed between MLS and the CCL.

Could Michael Bradley serve a long-term purpose as a CB?

Bradley again went 90 minutes as an emergency center back for Toronto FC, and it has us dreaming of, perhaps, the USMNT captain becoming part of a three-man backline for club and country.

Imagine the ball-playing out of the back from Bradley, whose best assets are reading the game and pinging passes. As part of an American unit with John Brooks and Matt Miazga, holding the center of the field for young buck center mids Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams? Could be worse!

Seba’s still Seba

Giovinco had to wait til his fifth MLS match of the season to score, as he salted away TFC’s much-needed win with 35 minutes to play.

His relative league struggles aside, Giovinco is doing fine this season thanks to four goals and four assists in eight CONCACAF Champions League games.

Still, it’s good to see him on the board.

Toronto loses CONCACAF Champions League in PKs

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Chivas Guadalajara scored on all of its penalty kicks to clinch a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League Final, breaking the hearts of Toronto FC in Mexico on Wednesday and earning a berth in the 2018 Club World Cup.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore scored in regulation as Toronto FC picked up a 2-1 win to reverse their first leg loss and push it to kicks.

Orbelin Pineda scored Chivas’ goal.

Hometown kid Jonathan Osorio hit the cross bar on Toronto’s second PK and Michael Bradley sent the fifth offering into outer space.

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Toronto flew out of the gates, and Rodolfo Cota came flying off his line to deny Altidore a 10th minute chance.

Alex Bono collected a header off a Chivas corner kick earned by a counterattack.

Pineda then made Toronto’s task even harder with a 19th minute goal, cooking Auro’s mark to reach a through ball and dancing around Bono for 1-0.

But Altidore was somehow unmarked for Nic Hasler’s pass despite five Chivas defenders and Cota inside the six-yard box, and TFC leveled the second leg at 1.

And TFC got the next goal through Giovinco, slipped through by Marky Delgado and taking advantage of a yard of space and a second to shoot with his fourth goal of the CCL knockout rounds.

The Reds kept coming in the second half, with Delgado winning a big 50-50 ball deep in Chivas territory and Victor Vasquez ripping a shot that Cota dove to smother.

Chivas found its footing in 58th minute, sending a shot over the bar before Jesus Godinez hit the post in the 61st (though his dive seemingly had the near post covered). Bono the next knocked a free kick over the bar from a similar position as the ball that beat him in the first leg.

Javier Lopez curled a vicious attempt just over the goal in the 72nd. He’d have the next best chances moments after Altidore subbed off with an apparent hamstring injury, but dribbled onto Bono’s lap and fired off the keeper.

Giovinco worked a 1-2 with Osorio and cruised a shot just wide of the far post in the 87th minute. Delgado then mailed a sitter over the bar in the first minute of stoppage time.

WATCH: Giovinco levels CONCACAF Champions League Final

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A trademark Sebastian Giovinco goal snapped a 1-1 first half tie and put Toronto FC in the driver’s seat for Major League Soccer’s first title in the CONCACAF Champions League era.

Jozy Altidore scored the first goal after Orbelin Pineda put Chivas Guadalajara ahead early in Mexico, and the tie is level at 3-3 after 135 minutes.

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Toronto needs to score once more and stay ahead by one, or win in penalty kicks.

The winner goes to the Club World Cup in December.

Look at this quick work from Giovinco after Marky Delgado slipped him into his office.

How long is Sebastian Giovinco for Toronto FC?

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While Toronto FC’s CONCACAF Champions League success has largely been driven by Sebastian Giovinco — Wednesday’s final second leg not withstanding — perhaps the Reds’ brass isn’t convinced the diminutive 31-year-old can keep it up much longer (at least in terms of value).

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Toronto’s dynamic Designated Player says he wants to stay in Ontario, implying that he’d like to be there for the rest of his career, but TFC’s brass may not want to pony up DP dollars for the next stage of Giovinco’s career.

From The Toronto Sun’s Kurt Larson:

“I already talk, but they said it’s not the moment (for contract talks),” Giovinco told the Sun. “For them, that’s not a problem, for me it is a little bit. I want to know my future. I have family. I’m 31 years old. For what I do for the city, I think I deserve it, no? … For them it’s not a problem, for me it’s starting to be a problem … I already said I want to stay here forever … If not, I have to think about other options.”

Let’s look into Seba’s success. The Italian has three goals and four assists in seven CCL matches (though scoreless through three MLS matches).

2017: 32 games, 20 goals, seven assists (6W-3L-2T w/o him)
2016: 37 games, 22 goals, 16 assists (1W-1L-4T w/o him)
2015: 35 games, 23 goals, 14 assists (0W-2L w/o him)

The assist numbers took a hit with the emergence of Victor Vazquez, but the ex-Barcelona man is also 31 years old. Michael Bradley turns 31 this summer, and Jozy Altidore is 29 in November.

Who will stay long-term? Who could general manager Tim Bezbatchenko have in mind as replacements, upgrades, or buttressing? Inquiring minds are

CCL: Toronto FC takes 3-1 lead over Club America

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The CONCACAF Champions League delivered on the day’s UEFA predecessors, with Toronto FC and Club America providing thrills and outstanding goals on Tuesday.

The semifinal first leg saw Toronto FC seize a two-goal advantage at a cold, sloppy BMO Field, boasting a 3-1 win ahead of the April 10 second leg at Estadio Azteca.

[ RECAPS: Juve-Real | Sevilla-Bayern ]

Sebastian Giovinco had a goal and an assist, Marky Delgado had two assists, while Jozy Altidore and Ashtone Morgan also scored for the hosts.

TFC went ahead early, with Sebastian Giovinco earning and converting a penalty kick in the ninth minute, but saw momentum halted by a mazy dribble from Andres Ibarguen. The diminutive Colombian winger took Michael Bradley twice before belting this shot past Alex Bono to make it 1-1 in the 21st minute.

Yet two of Toronto’s outstanding DPs teamed up to restore the Reds’ lead heading into halftime. Look at this ball from Giovinco to Altidore.

Being a Toronto playoff game, the event couldn’t be complete without tunnel drama. Plenty of arbiters were needed to separate several America and TFC players heading into the locker rooms a la Kljestan v. Altidore 2017.

The 58th minute saw TFC pick up what will feel like a comfort to many Canadians: a third goal. Ashtone Morgan burst into the 18 to reach a ball that was set to just miss Altidore.

Those who regularly criticize MLS will do well to witness this team goal.