On paper this one really looked like a game where Toronto FC were going to get run out of the building. Their history against New York Red Bulls has been far from kind and Red Bull Arena has been the site of some embarrassing performances in the past so when the team sheet came out including Mark Bloom, Gale Agbossoumonde, and Justin Braun in the starting lineup things were not looking good.
With New York in position to find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference with just a single point from the game following Montreal Impact's loss against the Columbus Crew earlier in the day you would have expected them to come out flying to try and put Toronto away early but it was the exact opposite that took place.
For the first thirty minutes of this match the bulk of play was going Toronto's way. They controlled possession for several good spells and thanks to some good work down the right side by Bloom, in his MLS debut, and Alvaro Rey they managed to get some dangerous crosses into the box. Problem was that every time TFC got a dangerous ball into the area it was a defender who got there just ahead of any of the attackers.
Then in the 32nd minute New York made a rare push into the attacking end and made TFC pay for some poor defending. Neither Agbossoumonde or Ashtone Morgan were quick enough to close down Dax McCarty who found himself with plenty of space inside the area and when he played a low cross into the middle both Steven Caldwell and Bloom were caught doing a bit of ball watching as Thierry Henry was allowed to run free at the back post and tap home his ninth goal of the season.
With the first half ending with Toronto down 1-0 they again came out and set the pace early in the second half. One of their better chances of the night came when Rey and Bloom combined well in the corner to create space before Bloom swung in a cross that found the head of Andrew Wiedeman near the front post but he was unable to put his effort on frame.
As the half wore on New York slowly worked their way back into the game taking more of the possession and creating quality chances. They forced Bendik to make one very good save before drama occurred when Jonathan Osorio nearly connected with Kosuke Kimura's head. The Red Bull defender was falling to the ground having been tackled by Jonas Elmer when Osorio came over to attempt to clear the ball away. Had the young Canadian not pulled up at the last second it could have resulted in a very serious injury.
The ref elected not to punish anyone after all the pushing and shoving took place so the Red Bulls took matters into their own hands and dealt out some punishment on the scoreboard. The resulting free kick was played into the area by Henry and only partially cleared by Caldwell. After the ball was crossed back into the area it fell to Fabian Espindola who was standing at what looked to be an impossible angle but his looping header somehow found a way to evade Boss at the back post and tuck just inside the corner of the goal.
Toronto's best chance to pull when back came when Dike was played through on a counter attack but his low driven shot was straight into the waiting arms of Luis Robles who really did not have to work that hard to preserve his clean sheet.
The match ended 2-0 in favour of New York and served as an illustration of why they are near the top of the league while Toronto is much closer to the bottom. The Red Bulls did not generate a whole lot in terms of quality possession but when they did they looked for quality shots and made the most of their chances. They made the most of their slight edge in possession to make this look like an easy win.
Toronto on the other hand once again lacked that quality needed in the final third. They were making good runs and finding room out wide but when they got into space crossing the ball seemed to be the only option and the players in the middle were simply not good enough to get into space or beat the defenders to get on the end of those crosses. Turning possession into chances and chances into goals was the real difference in this game.
The positive for TFC in this one was that Mark Bloom made his MLS debut and looked solid. It was his man that scored the opening goal but Henry has drifted away from far better defenders than Bloom in his time so the blame for that goal should probably lie with the defenders who allowed McCarty to play such a simple ball right across the face of goal.
Alvaro Rey also put in what was probably his best performance for TFC thus far and seems to be starting to come into his own. He showed that he can create space for himself using his technical abilities or his physical tools but he also looked impressive in his ability to link up with Bloom and other attackers to create chances to cross.
When Dike came on he once again looked like he could offer a fair bit more than Justin Braun brought to the table as he appears to have more skills that just being a big body. He only got 15 minutes of playing time as he continues to work his way back from injury but he managed to get one of Toronto's better efforts on goal in that time.
There was also a brief cameo for Kyle Bekker who came on in the 88th minute of the match and managed to get one touch on the ball completing his only pass of the game. Hopefully, he did enough with his two minutes to earn a longer runout at some point in the remaining five games of the season.
With Ryan Nelsen so insistent that playing time has to be earned it will be interesting to see who did enough to earn a start next game. With many speculating that Richard Eckersley could be leaving at the end of the season barring a major pay-cut it will be worth keeping an eye on the playing time of Bloom going forward since the club may end up needing to bring him back to provide cover on the outside of defence.
On the whole it was not a bad performance from Toronto but it contained a lot of the reasons why they are sitting near the bottom of the table. Even when this team plays well it is clear just how far they still have to go if they want to compete with the best teams in MLS.
With remaining games against Sporting Kansas City, Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire, and Montreal Impact there are plenty of chances left for TFC to play spoiler and mess up team's playoff plans so hopefully they do a better job than they did against New York on Saturday.