As far as starts to the season go, Toronto FC likely couldn't have drawn it up any better than today's game. The backline that was the club's downfall last season stood strong against one of the league's best attacks. Then the club would turn the game on its head late for a huge 2-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.
Sebastian Giovinco scored the game winning penalty in the 80th minute, and Marky Delgado secured victory ten minutes later with a goal of his own. It was the first time Toronto FC have ever won in Red Bull Arena, a building that has been the home to many a heartbreak for the club in the past.
Today it played host to a statement performance from Toronto FC: on home and on the road this team isn't to be taken lightly any more. Not that Toronto were particularly easy to beat last season, but they were fairly easy to score on and that cost them many points over the course of 2015.
This afternoon defending secured them a point, giving their offense a chance to go out and grab two more. There could not have been a better test for the new backline than today: away from home, in a loud building, and constantly being put under pressure by one of the best offenses in Major League Soccer. They passed their first test with flying colours, giving the Red Bulls very few good chances.
The difference that a backline leader like Drew Moor can make was on full display in this match as the Toronto defense looked structured and organized throughout. Alongside him Damien Perquis was equally solid, clearly better at being a backline deputy than the leader he was forced to be at times last season.
This was the club's first clean sheet since August 22, 2015 and they only had five clean sheets all of last season, and only two on the road. For Clint Irwin this was also a debut clean sheet. He did not play a huge part in the outcome of the match, but was solid when called upon.
While Toronto's play off the ball was solid throughout the match, they struggled against the high press of the New York Red Bulls when they had possession. This caused Toronto to needlessly concede possession on several occasions, and struggle to get any sort of service to their attacking players.
While his MLS debut will go down for the most part as a success, Tsbasa Endoh did look out of place and isolated at times throughout. The same can be said of Daniel Lovitz, who had a poor match on the left side of the attack. Endoh, however, would recover and was hauled down in the box to give Toronto a penalty in the 80th minute. What Endoh lacked in experience he would make up for with how little fear he showed to make difficult plays.
But even if Toronto's offense did visibly struggle for most of the match, they would still get the job done at the end of the day.Giovinco was held off by the New York Red Bull's defense for most of the afternoon, but when given his chance from the penalty spot it would make no mistake. Delgado's finish, after a great pass from Giovinco, was equally impressive and the culmination of a strong substitute performance.
The win will give Toronto a much needed jolt of confidence to kick off their season opening eight game road trip. Knowing that the can get the job done in one of the league's most difficult venues against one of the most difficult opponents only bodes will for the rest of the season.