Toronto FC is headed to the MLS Cup for the second year in a row, and Jozy Altidore can be thanked for sending the Canadian side back to the final.
Moments after it appeared Altidore would be leaving the match with an ankle injury early in the second half, the U.S. international fought through the discomfort and provided some magic to give TFC a 1-0 victory over the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night.
After the Crew had held Toronto FC scoreless for 156 minutes of the two-legged Eastern Conference final, the home side finally found the net thanks to some fantastic passing between Sebastian Giovinco, Víctor Vazquez and Altidore, who broke through to slide home a right-footed shot.
Just moments earlier, Altidore was seen kneeling on the sideline as his team played with 10 men.
"He was barely able to walk," Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney told FS1 . "In that final play when he was able to get the goal, something just switched and he just turned on and went for it. He went beast mode or what Jozy does, and he was unstoppable.
"It was a great ball from Victor and we needed that goal."
Toronto FC had a tough time beating Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who had been fantastic throughout the playoffs. Just when it looked like TFC had an easy opportunity to get an early lead, the 22-year-old stopped a penalty-kick attempt from Vazquez in the 26th minute.
But Toronto FC kept grinding and found the goal it needed in part due to Giovinco's outstanding hold-up play and backheel that set up Altidore's goal. Both star forwards had missed the first leg, with Altidore suspended for a red card and Giovinco for yellow card accumulation.
TFC will now face the winner of the Western Conference final between the Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders.