MLS Playoffs: Toronto FC rewarded for sticking to its guns

After making its fans wait a decade to see a home playoff game, Toronto FC is two for two at BMO Field.

Toisant Ricketts came off the bench to set up a goal for Jozy Altidore and then score one himself in the final minutes of a 2-0 TFC victory over New York City FC Sunday in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The teams play again next Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

TFC had reached the semis by beating Philadelphia, 3-1, at BMO on Wednesday and parlayed its first playoff victory into a gritty triumph that wasn’t decided until the 84th minute. After whiffing on his first attempt at a loose ball, Ricketts prodded it square to Altidore, who smashed his shot into the top corner.

A raucous celebration broke out from a crowd left frustrated by numerous fruitless attacks, yet TFC got back to work on a second goal and stunned NYCFC in the second minute of stoppage time. Ricketts fired a shot from a Nick Hagglund cross that keeper Eirik Johansen blocked but couldn’t smother, and with both forward and keeper on the ground, poked the loose ball into the net.

Up until Altidore’s goal, Johansen and his defensive mates had blunted whatever TFC threw at them. Sebastian Giovinco dribbled and drove at the NYCFC back line and launched eight shots; Johansen stopped him one-v-one and tipped away a typically swerved free kick. Johansen had debuted in place of starter Josh Saunders for the final regular-season game and kept his place for NYCFC’s first playoff appearance.

Head coach Patrick Vieira left Andrea Pirlo (nursing a sore calf) on the bench and brought on Frank Lampard with a half-hour to play, and thus not much service was provided to David Villa despite some industrious work by rookie Jack Harrison.

Vieira used a three-man back line anchored by Andoni Iraola and supplemented by wingbacks Ronald Matarrita and R.J. Allen to mirror TFC’s formation, and thanks to Johansen were within touching distance of a shutout when Altidore and Ricketts broke through.

“I think we stayed calm," said Altidore, "and to stick to our guns and continue to play the way we wanted to play from the beginning of the game even in the 80th minute when it looked bleak is a sign of a team that’s really growing all the time."
Oct. 30 in Toronto
Toronto FC 2, New York City 0.
TFC:  Altidore 84.
TFC:  Ricketts 90+2.
TFC -- Irwin; Beitashour, Zavaleta, Moor, Hagglund, Morrow, Bradley, Cooper (Johnson, 86), Osorio (Ricketts, 83), Giovinco (Delgado, 88), Altidore.
NYCFC -- Johansen; Allen, Brilliant, Iarola, Chanot, Matarrita; Lopez (Lampard, 60), Bravo, Mendoza (Taylor, 86), Harrison, Villa (Shelton, 78).
Yellow Cards: Toronto FC -- Cooper 23; New York City -- Harrison 33, Chanot 44, Lopez 58, Bravo 65, Lampard 73.
Att: 28,220.

1 comment about " MLS Playoffs: Toronto FC rewarded for sticking to its guns".
  1. beautiful game, October 31, 2016 at 10:16 p.m.

    NYCFC looked like they never played disgrace...s juvenile performance.

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