Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts scored two minutes apart in extra time and Toronto FC advanced to the MLS Cup final, outlasting the Montreal Impact, 5-2, in the rain Wednesday night for a 7-5 aggregate victory.
It took extra time and 12 goals to decide the two-leg Eastern Conference final. Toronto will host the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 10 in the MLS championship game, becoming the first Canadian team to play for the title.
“Tonight was a special night,” captain Michael Bradley said. “Ten days from now we want to do one better.”
Toronto trailed 3-2 after Game 1 in Montreal and fell further behind after the Impact scored first before a BMO Field-record crowd of 36,000.
Only once before in MLS playoff history had a club trailed by as many as three goals in a two-leg aggregate series and come back to wine. The San Jose Earthquakes were down 4-0 in 2003 before rallying to beat the Galaxy, 5-4.
“One of our messages was there was no way, no chance, no how we were going to be outcompeted tonight in front of our fans in our stadium,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “And we were going to run hard and we were going to run through everything that we had to make sure that those margins turned in our favor.”
With the teams tied 5-5 on aggregate, Cheyrou scored on a header in the 98th minute — just a minute after entering the game — when he knocked in Steven Beitashour’s cross. Then, Jozy Altidore outmuscled a couple of defenders to send in a cross that Ricketts, beating two more defenders to the ball, swept in.
“For me, the most exciting playoff event that I’ve ever been a part of,” Vanney said. “And for sure that I’ve ever seen.”
Dominic Oduro opened the scoring in the 24th minute for Montreal, a goal that meant Toronto had to score twice. Armando Cooper and Altidore did just that before the first half was over, tying the aggregate score at 4-4, with an away goals edge to Toronto.
But the Impact’s Ignacio Piatti made it 2-2 — and 5-4 on aggregate — in the 53rd minute after substitute Johan Venegas found him behind the defense. The ball bounced off either Piatti or defender Nick Hagglund, leaving Toronto fans to watch in pain as it trickled slowly into the net.
Hagglund restored order with a superb header in the 68th minute to make it 3-2 on the night and 5-5 on aggregate. It came off a short corner with Justin Morrow delivering the cross.
“Guys are down in the dressing room. It’s grueling out there,” Impact Coach Mauro Biello said. “Today was a tough game, a lot of emotions in playoffs, it’s a long season, and in the end the players gave everything, all the way to the end. It’s a tough moment, for sure, for everyone, when you’re so close and falling short. But we’ll be back, and we’ll be even stronger.”