The MLS franchise that sometimes resembles a reality TV show romped past a toothless Chivas USA on Sunday afternoon, snapping a six-game winless streak while moving three points within a playoff spot with one game in hand on the teams above.
"For me it was a critical match for us to get the points," said Toronto manager Greg Vanney, cognizant of the weak opposition. "Not only just the points but also to continue progress in our confidence and our understanding of what we're trying to do."
Gilberto scored a goal and set up fellow Brazilian Jackson's score. Luke Moore also had a goal for Toronto (10-11-7) as Chivas' losing streak stretched to six games.
But the win came at a cost. Jackson, who had an otherwise fine game, was red-carded along with Chivas midfielder Ngel Reo-Coker after a melee in the 66th minute. Jackson was seen delivering a slap, which could mean a further suspension on top of the mandatory one-game ban that comes with seeing red.
And Toronto captain Steven Caldwell and star midfielder Michael Bradley, who served as skipper during Caldwell's injury absence, were seen exchanging words late in the game. The discussion seemed to carry into the locker-room with Caldwell and other players seen holding a pow-pow in a private area.
Reporters milled around in the main locker-room as the players talked something out down the hall. It hardly felt like a group celebrating a must-win outing.
"That's just what happens in football games," Caldwell said later of his on-field words with Bradley. "We're passionate people, we both want to win, we both want the best for the team. We were just sort of spurring each other on, getting each other going."
Or you can add the exchange to the list of recent dysfunctional behaviour that includes a cloud over the future of star striker Jermain Defoe, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke taking a swipe at his own players, GM Tim Bezbatchenko issuing a challenge to the team and then firing manager Ryan Nelsen and five assistant coaches.
The ejections came when Jackson, upset at a Reo-Coker tackle he perceived should have been a foul, scythed down the Chivas player with a crude challenge to set off the melee.
"He lost his cool," Vanney said of Jackson, who has been accused of running hot in the past.
"We've already had a brief conversation with him," he added. "He knows that that's not a good moment for the team. And so we'll have to deal with it, we'll see what happens."
Jackson refused to speak to reporters.
On the plus side Sunday, Toronto's 10th win of the season marked a franchise high set in 2009 when the team finished 10-11-9.
And Leiweke was in a good mood during the one-sided game, buying beers for those of legal age in Section 127 at BMO Field after they chanted their wish for a cold one during a pleasant sunny afternoon.
The crowd was announced as yet another sellout of 22,591 but there were plenty of empty seats with the lacklustre opposition and forecast of rain perhaps keeping people home.
The rare Sunday game came three days after MLS commissioner Don Garber acknowledged that Chivas may not play in 2015 while the team's ownership void is filled. The league is currently operating the franchise and its bid to find a buyer wasn't helped by Sunday's performance. The Goats tried but have few weapons in their arsenal.
It did not help that Mexican striker Erick Torres, who has 14 of Chivas' 23 goals, was suspended.
Defence was not expected to feature prominently despite the fact it was Canadian Armed Forces Appreciation Day at BMO Field. The two teams had leaked a combined 21 goals in their last four outings (14 for Chivas and seven for Toronto).
Statistically Chivas (6-17-6) hardly has a pulse.
Chivas is now winless in 11 games (0-10-1) and has been shut out in nine of its last 10 outings, during which time it has been outscored 24-2. It has given up three or more goals in each of its last five games during which time it has been outscored 17-2.
The only plus perhaps was that Portland's win over Vancouver on Saturday staved off playoff elimination for Chivas, at least for a week.
"The only thing we got to do is just keep going," said Chivas midfielder Eric Avila, a former TFC player. "We always have to be positive in the locker-room. That's just the only way to get out of it. I've been in situations like this before and the only thing to do is to be together and being positive."
Added goalie Dan Kennedy: "The only one's who are going to get us out of this is ourselves."
The win moved Toronto to 37 points, three out of the playoff picture in seventh spot with a game in hand on the teams above them.
Fourth-place New York (41 points) and fifth-place Columbus (40) both won Saturday while sixth-place Philadelphia (38 points) tied. The top five in each conference make the post-season.
Toronto hosts Portland (9-8-12) next Saturday in a meeting of teams on the playoff bubble.
Toronto dominated Chivas early in a choppy opening half that TFC goalie Joe Bendik could have watched with a cocktail in his hand.
Toronto went ahead in the 23rd minute after Mark Bloom won the ball on the right flank. It eventually went to Gilberto, who found Jackson with a nifty backheel on the edge of the box. The Brazilian winger veered left and banged a left-footed shot off a defender past Kennedy.
Jackson and Gilberto, in honour of the day's military theme, celebrated the goal with a salute.
It should have been 2-0 in the 31st but Moore, using the outside of his boot, scooped the ball off the crossbar after a nifty delivery complete with stepovers from winger Daniel Lovitz.
Avila wasted a rare Chivas scoring chance when he shot high from in-close in the 43rd minute.
Moore made it 2-0 in first-half stoppage time, volleying home a ball headed back into the box from Bloom off a Michael Bradley corner.
Bradley almost made it 3-0 early in the second half with a free kick that Kennedy palmed over the crossbar. The American international then served as playmaker of the ensuing corner, deftly sending the ball across the face of the net with the side of his boot. The ball somehow evaded every Chivas defender en route to Gilberto, who tapped it in for his seventh goal of the season in the 54th minute.
Vanney, who now has a win to go along with two losses and a tie as manager, said both corners had been worked on in practice during the week.
"We did some good work this week," Gilberto said through an interpreter. "The coach prepared us very well tactically, so all of our plays were spot-on."
Bendik had to make a rare save in the 84th minute, punching a Leandro Barrera shot away.
Chivas coach Wilmer Cabrera pointed to the set-piece goals.
"It's sad because we practise that a lot and we got punished twice. One to finish the first half and one at the beginning of the second half."
The win was just Toronto's third in 13 career matches with Chivas, which holds a 9-3-1 edge in the series.
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