Toronto FC pulled off the miracle in Montreal on Thursday, defeating the Montreal Impact 6-1 to take the 2009 Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
TFC came into the game needing a win by four or more goals to replace the Vancouver Whitecaps atop the final standings, and after a Tony Donatelli penalty kick gave the Impact a 1-0 lead in the first half it looked all but over for Toronto, as the team now needed to score five to take the title.
But the Reds, who had never scored five goals or more coming into Thursday's encounter, reeled off six straight to take the national title on goal-differential over Vancouver.
"We've criticized ourselves for not scoring enough goals, but we showed tonight we have something special building with the club," said Toronto FC interim coach Chris Cummins.
"People say we don't take our chances, but tonight we took our chances."
Chad Barrett scored the championship-winning goal in the 83rd minute, knocking a header into the Impact net on a TFC corner kick.
"Chad gets hammered, the fans are on him, he's hard on himself and even we hammer him sometimes," Cummins said.
"What you find with good strikers is that they keep going, and they're thick-skinned as well."
Even though Barrett scored the decisive goal, the man of the match had to be Reds midfielder Dwayne De Rosario. He started the comeback with a natural hat trick, scoring the first three TFC goals.
For the Scarborough, Ont. native, this win is the biggest in the young club's history.
"Definitely — because we haven't won anything," De Rosario, who was named tournament MVP, said after the game.
"This is the only victory, but hopefully there's many more to come."
Amado Guevara had two goals of his own in the win.
Final whistle sets off celebration
After the final whistle, De Rosario jumped into the adoring arms of hundreds of Toronto FC supporters who made the trip to Montreal, as TFC was handed the Voyageurs Cup.
"The fans were magnificent, and I know there are thousands and thousands more back home," Cummins said. "That's the first bit of silverware for Toronto, and I can assure you it won't be the last."
The Whitecaps had the dubious privilege of watching their title hopes fade away in person, as they were in attendance at Saputo Stadium for a tilt against the Impact scheduled for Saturday (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 1:30 p.m. ET). An announced crowd of 11,561 took in the affair on a rainy night in Montreal.
Impact coach Marc Dos Santos decided to field a team largely made up of subs for the clash with Toronto, as his team had already been eliminated from Canadian championship contention and is focusing on the big match against rivals Vancouver on the weekend.
But anyone expecting him to use that as an excuse after the game was sorely mistaken.
"Even if the game meant nothing to us, you have to honour your city, you have to honour your club," Dos Santos said. "We didn't do that tonight."
Toronto took full advantage of the opportunity, continuously exploiting an Impact defence that looked really shaky after the first TFC goal was scored.
"They're professional footballers and nobody likes to lose," Cummins said, and added that he would have fielded a similar lineup if was he in the same situation.
"We told the team that we wouldn't worry about them, it was all about us tonight."
By winning the Canadian championship, Toronto FC will now play in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League. TFC will face the Puerto Rico Islanders in a two-leg playoff on July 28 and Aug. 4, with the winner moving on to the group phase of the competition.
TFC presses advantage
As expected, the Reds pressed the advantage from the opening kickoff, but couldn't find their way in the attacking half as the makeshift Impact defence stood tall early.
Danny Dichio had two chances to open TFC's account in the first 15 minutes, but couldn't connect on a bicycle kick in the Impact box six minutes in, and missed a header from a Sam Cronin cross nine minutes later.
Toronto didn't even have a shot on backup Montreal goalkeeper Srdjan Djekanovic until the 22nd minute, a squib kick that he handled easily.
And then it looked like the final blow was dealt to TFC's title hopes.
The Impact's strong play in the Reds' box forced a foul out of Nick Garcia, who clearly tripped Peter Byers near the six-yard box in the 23rd minute. Then Montreal's Donatelli coolly stepped to the penalty spot and placed a shot into the right corner past TFC keeper Stefan Frei.
But De Rosario gave TFC a glimmer of hope just six minutes later, scoring on a spectacular overhead kick in the 29th minute after Djekanovic couldn't punch a corner kick out of the Montreal box.
"When they scored I looked around to every guy and not one had his head down," De Rosario said. "That was good to see."
After the first Toronto goal, the Impact were back on their heels. Dichio had another chance to score, just missing on a diving header in the 33rd minute.
It was 2-1 Toronto in the 39th, as De Rosario powered a shot that that glanced off Impact defender Elkana Mayard and past Djekanovic for his second of the game.
De Rosario delivers a third
The Reds needed a goal early in the second half to keep the momentum, and they got one as De Rosario delivered again.
He notched his hat trick goal only four minutes into the second half, as Toronto took advantage of a botched Impact offside trap that sent the TFC midfielder in alone against Djekanovic.
Montreal showed it was dangerous on the counter as the Reds threw everyone forward to grab the final two goals late in the game.
The Impact's lone forward up front, Pierre-Rudolph Mayard, had two good chances to score after TFC's third goal, but Frei came up big to keep the Reds' hopes alive.
And then Guevara put Toronto one goal away from the championship. He curled one of his of his patented free kicks into the left corner to make it 4-1 Reds with 11 minutes to go, setting up Barrett's heroics seven minutes from time.
After Barrett completed the TFC comeback in the 83rd minute, Guevara added an insurance goal in injury time to make it 6-1.