TORONTO — After seeing its franchise-record win streak stopped at six with a 1-1 tie at the New York Red Bulls last week, normal service resumed for Toronto FC on Friday.
Led by Victor Vazquez's dead-ball mastery, league-leading Toronto thumped Columbus Crew SC 5-0 to match the club-record unbeaten run of eight MLS games.
Perhaps most impressively, Toronto ran up the score without the services of star strikers Sebastian Giovinco (injured) and Jozy Altidore (suspended), whose combined salaries total US$12 million this season.
Vazquez scored twice — first from the penalty spot in the sixth minute and then from a free kick on the edge of the box in the 59th minute. Striker Ben Spencer, in his first MLS start, set up a 39th-minute Justin Morrow goal.
The beat went on even after Toronto midfielder Marky Delgado was sent off for a studs-up tackle in the 81st minute. Canadian substitutes Jonathan Osorio and Jordan Hamilton scored in the 86th and 93rd minutes, respectively.
"I've been saying for a while I believe we have the deepest team in the league and maybe the deepest team ever. I stand by that," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, who spent 10 years as an MLS player. "We've got guys who haven't been playing a ton but are hungry and they're capable. And tonight they came out and made a statement for themselves and as a group.
"I thought the most important thing is no matter who we put out there and how we put them out there, the group works hard for each other."
Added captain Michael Bradley: "The mentality and the killer instinct to keep going and going even towards the end was really good."
It's Toronto's fastest road — 14 games — to eight wins in franchise history. It took Toronto 18 games to do it in 2015.
The dominant showing followed a disappointing performance by a reserve Toronto side in a 2-1 loss to Ottawa in the first leg of the Canadian championship semifinal.
Bradley and Altidore will be unavailable for Wednesday's return leg with Ottawa and a league game next weekend at New England due to international duty.
Giovinco's status for those games remains up in the air. The Italian appears to believe he is ready to return from his quad injury, posting on Instagram "When you are ready but they don't want to listen" under a picture of him in action.
Vanney said the medical team disagreed but didn't seem too fazed by Giovinco's latest act of pique. He did agree that such discussions were best kept behind closed doors.
Toronto (8-1-5) is 7-0-1 since suffering its lone league loss of the season, a 2-1 decision in Columbus on April 15. Columbus (6-7-1) has gone the other way, losing five of seven since downing TFC at Mapfre Stadium.
"(A) bitterly poor performance, bitterly poor result but we have to move on," said Columbus coach Gregg Berhalter. "It's one of 34 games and we can't let this put us in a tailspin or derail our objectives."
Columbus took 11 shots, of which none were on target.
Vazquez, an elegant Spanish playmaker who leads the league in assists with eight, came off in the 68th minute to a standing ovation from the announced crowd of 25,376 at BMO Field.
A fine through ball from Vazquez to Tosaint Ricketts set the stage for the opening goal. Ricketts, the fastest man on the Toronto roster, sped away from Jonathan Mensah and the Ghanaian international was forced to tug him down.
Vazquez made no mistake from the spot kick, welcome news for Vanney who has seen both Giovinco and Altidore run into problems with penalties. Mensah was yellow-carded on the play.
Morrow made it 2-0, his left-footed shot beating Zack Steffen after a nice feed from Spencer. Columbus gave the ball away on the play with a Waylon Francis header putting Trapp under pressure and allowing Spencer to step in.
Vazquez made Columbus pay again in the second half after Crew SC committed a foul on the edge of the box. The Spaniard beat Steffen with a grasscutter free kick that went under the wall for his third goal of the year.
"That was cheeky and he's such a classy player," Toronto 'keeper Alex Bono said approvingly. "There's not many guys that can pull that off."
Osorio, who came in for Vazquez, made it 4-0, taking advantage of a gaping hole in the Columbus defence. Hamilton scored on a header in stoppage time.
Toronto also went unbeaten in eight games (4-0-4) from May 8 to July 10, 2010.
The victory extended Toronto's unbeaten run at home to seven games (5-0-2). Toronto's second win in three tries against Columbus also earned Toronto the Trillium Cup, presented annually to the series winner.
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