Captain Jim Brennan scored in the 47th minute to keep playoff hopes alive as Toronto FC defeated Real Salt Lake 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at BMO Field.
Brennan’s mid-air volley beat Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando giving Toronto a critical three points in their final home game of the season.
The win put TFC (10-10-9) temporarily into the eighth and final playoff position. It also moved them two points ahead of Salt Lake (10-12-7), who are all but eliminated from the post-season.
Toronto goalkeeper Brian Edwards picked up his first clean sheet of the season with an outstanding game.
After a first half that saw lots of chances without success, it didn’t take long for Toronto to get on the board after the re-start.
When forward Chad Barrett’s shot from close in was stopped by Rimando, Brennan followed with a perfectly placed right-footer into the far right corner of the net.
The Canadian’s second goal of the year put Toronto up 1-0.
His side would continue to press for the next 10 minutes, bubbling with momentum and energy. Toronto would take three shots on goal and win a pair of corner kicks, but could not add to their lead.
The game took on a furious finish as Salt Lake threw everything they could at TFC.
Real, who had scored 17 goals in the 75th minute or later this season, pressed late as they tried to even the game.
Toronto started to drop deep into its own zone, playing an all-out defensive scheme to try and hold onto the lead.
Fabian Espindola found himself with a step on the defenders to the left in the 80th minute, but his shot drifted just to the right of the goal. Edwards had to come off his line two minutes later to punch away another scoring chance.
Salt Lake’s last real opportunity came in injury time, when Williams’ cross was headed by Nat Borchman towards the goal, but Edwards was there to catch the ball.
Toronto made their first substitution in the 74th minute, bringing on Amadou Sanyang for Barrett.
While the American forward did not score in the match, his presence was felt as he played an excellent match at both ends of the pitch.
Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis tried to shake things up offensively for his team, bringing on Andy Williams and Findley in the 59th minute. Their final substitution saw Pablo Campos replace Tony Beltran in the 77th minute as they went on the attack.
Adrian Serioux flipped over Campos shortly after the Brazilian’s entrance while attempting to defend, landing on the shoulder he’d recently injured. The Canadian was down for a couple of minutes but got up and continued to play.
Exciting first half
The two sides played an exciting, but scoreless, first 45 minutes. Salt Lake had six shots on goal to Toronto’s three, but TFC drew four corner kicks, two in succession around the middle of the half.
Both teams came out playing aggressively, needing three points to try and reach for the playoffs.
An early counter-attack by Real nearly put them in front less than a minute in. Following a TFC throw-in, Rimando’s long clearance found Espindola with a step on Toronto’s defenders.
The forward’s shot was tipped over the bar by Edwards.
Five minutes later, White made a strong move to get past a defender just outside of the penalty area, but could not connect for an attempt on goal.