IN­CRED­I­BLE!

Toronto FC ex­plodes for five goals in New York to set up Eastern fi­nal clash with Mon­treal.

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - LAURA ARM­STRONG SPORTS RE­PORTER

NEW YORK— Toronto FC sur­prised even it­self at Yan­kee Sta­dium on Sunday night by rout­ing New York City FC 5-0 — pro­pel­ling the side to its first Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal.

“It’s a spe­cial night,” de­fender Drew Moor said fol­low­ing the win. “I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it.”

The Reds — led by Se­bas­tian Giovinco’s hat trick — had won the open­ing leg of the semi­fi­nal 2-0 on home turf and knew ex­actly what it would take to ad­vance. Scor­ing five unan­swered goals was beyond any ex­pec­ta­tions.

“It’s re­ally crazy that it ended up that way, but we de­served it,” goal­keeper Clint Irwin said. “We were ag­gres­sive. We kept push­ing. We played the same way from the first minute in the first leg to the last minute in this leg.”

The em­phatic vic­tory sets the stage for an all-Cana­dian con­fer­ence fi­nal against the Mon­treal Im­pact — who swept the New York Red Bulls — start­ing Nov. 22 at Olympic Sta­dium.

TFC set the tone early, when Giovinco beat New York City de­fender Maxime Chanot to open the scor­ing in the sixth minute. The Ital­ian re­ceived a pass from Jozy Alti­dore at top of the box, with his back to the net. Us­ing the in­side of his right cleat, he flicked the ball be­tween his legs, turn­ing Chanot in­side out. A touch later, the ball was past goal­keeper Eirik Jo­hansen and in the net.

“When we can get a lead we’ve been a very, very good team, be­cause teams have to open up a lit­tle bit more,” said TFC coach Greg Van­ney. “They have to at­tack a lit­tle bit more and, as we saw tonight, when you leave spa­ces in tran­si­tion . . . we can be very pun­ish­ing.”

And pun­ish they did. Less than 15 min- Ig­na­cio Pi­atti scored both goals in the Mon­treal Im­pact’s 2-1 win over the New York Red Bulls. Story, S6 utes later, Giovinco struck again.

More fancy foot­work from the striker drew a penalty, after New York City de­fender Fred­eric Bravo chopped at the Atomic Ant’s an­kle. Giovinco’s sig­na­ture shot — low to the left-hand cor­ner — didn’t dis­ap­point.

Toronto’s trav­el­ling sup­port­ers — about 300 red-clad fans largely clus­tered in a sin­gle sec­tion be­hind where home plate would nor­mally be — were in full voice by then, at times louder than the rest of the crowd of 28,355 at the home of base­ball’s Yan­kees.

After Alti­dore scored the next goal, they ser­e­naded him with a rous­ing ren­di­tion of “Happy Birth­day.” The striker — who turned 27 on Sunday — col­lected a bounc­ing long ball and, with one touch, volleyed it in from a tight an­gle.

Mid­fielder Jonathan Oso­rio and Giovinco again rounded out the scor­ing in the sec­ond half — ic­ing on the cake.

After a two-week break for international play, the MLS play­offs will re­sume. The win­ner of the two-leg con­fer­ence fi­nal will ad­vance to the MLS Cup cham­pi­onship game on Dec. 10.

Irwin said Sunday’s dom­i­nant win should send a mes­sage to the rest of the MLS fi­nal four — but the im­me­di­ate fo­cus is on the ri­val Im­pact, who elim­i­nated TFC in the knock­out round last year.

“They’ve shown that they’re get­ting hot at the right time, so it’s go­ing to be a tough game,” said Irwin. “We’ve just got to fo­cus on our­selves and be the best ver­sion of us.”

Cap­tain Michael Bradley, a fix­ture

“We’ve just got to fo­cus on our­selves and be the best ver­sion of us.” TFC GOAL­KEEPER CLINT IRWIN

on the Amer­i­can na­tional team, is look­ing for­ward to the all-Cana­dian show­down.

“I think it sets up in an amaz­ing way, for soc­cer in Canada, for every­body in those two cities,” said Toronto cap­tain Michael Bradley. “We’re en­joy­ing this for the mo­ment but al­ready, in the back of our minds, we can’t wait for that be­cause I think it’s go­ing to be two un­be­liev­able games, two games in in­cred­i­ble at­mos­pheres.

“The his­tory, the ri­valry, the dis­like be­tween the two clubs, the two cities — yeah, for me you couldn’t write it up any bet­ter.”

AN­DRES KUDACKI/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

TFC striker Se­bas­tian Giovinco, right, scored six min­utes in and the flood­gates opened in a blowout vic­tory over New York City FC at Yan­kee Sta­dium.

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