Two things were cemented today: that the New York Red Bulls are one of the league's top teams, and that Toronto FC are still far from contention. Toronto and New York are not 3-0 apart as they were yesterday, but the gap between them was evident in every facet of the match.
It was most apparent in how New York dealt with Toronto's offense: stifling it, not letting it play any factor in the match. They made Sebastian Giovinco look as ordinary as he has looked since joining Major League Soccer, and made Jozy Altidore disappear altogether.
This Red Bulls club seems to have tapped into their states sport's history a little bit, and at times largely resemble the highly successful New Jersey Devils. They are good at sucking the life out of a game in order to earn a result.
They also took a page out of their crosstown rival New York City FC's playbook yesterday. Their defensive effort was very similar to that which the blue side of town infamously worked to success earlier in the season in a 2-0 victory at BMO Field.
The difference was that the Red Bulls are a better team, so they didn't have to resort to as much bullying and the match wasn't as ugly. But the principles were the same: clog up the middle, pay extra attention to Giovinco and get physical whenever possible.
Ticking off Giovinco is always a dangerous proposition, but it has shown to be incredibly effective if done correctly. Giovinco needs to learn to control his temper, or teams are just going to keep kneeing, fouling and tugging him out of matches.
From the outside looking in it is difficult to see how a team's defending won them a 3-0 game but that was truly the case in this match. Toronto has shown in the past that they can keep up with opponents if the game opens up.
Instead the Red Bulls were patient, methodical, as an early goal from Bradley Wright-Phillips allowed them the time to pick apart Toronto's meagre defense. Toronto have now allowed a disgraceful 17 goals in their last 5 matches on the road.
The only true bright spot at the back for Toronto was Josh Williams, who stopped several threatening Red Bull's attacks and has almost certainly earned himself more playing time. It remains to be seen whether that is centrally or in his natural fullback position.
Other than Williams, Toronto's defending was once again shambolic. It started with Ahmed Kantari, who still has yet to find his stride in Major League Soccer. That is the difficulty with bringing a defender in during midseason: their struggle to find form can be damaging.
Behind him it's hard to fault Joe Bendik for the errors made by his defensive corps, but he is starting to bail them out less and less. But allowing an average of three goals a game since returning from injury is simply not good enough. Chris Konopka deserves another chance.
The Red Bulls may not technically be better offensively than Toronto, but their defensive efforts allowed them to be on this occasion. New York's defending, more than it's attacking, forced Toronto to play out of position creating holes that the team could exploit once they got the ball.
Once again it was a new face that was Toronto’s best player offensively. Ultimately he wasn’t able to get anything on the scoresheet, but Herculez Gomez proved that he is still a dangerous option coming off the bench for Toronto. He can provide a width that Toronto have been missing all year.
The last two matches have also been concerning for another reason, the lack of effort and cohesion. The same thing happened at this point last season, and ultimately resulted in Ryan Nelsen being fired and the season burning with him.
Believe it or not Toronto actually had four more points after 23 games last season than they do this year. Their 23rd game was one before Ryan Nelsen was fired for an August 30 3-0 loss to the New England Revolution.
That's a stat that should underline how dire things are getting for Toronto. It isn't time to panic just yet, but if things don't change in a hurry, especially at the back, it's not too far around the corner.
While Toronto FC have never truly appeared to be a contender so far this season, they haven't looked like a pretender either. Yesterday's loss raises concerns that maybe they are just better at pretending than previously thought.