For the second straight game, Toronto FC missed an opportunity to take over the first place spot in the Eastern Conference. Instead, New York City FC came into BMO Field and took a point and that top spot in a 1-1 draw. It was the second game that Toronto FC dropped points at home, albeit in far better performance than on the weekend against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Missing at least three crucial starters, a new-look Toronto FC starting eleven did their best to gel on the fly against one of the league's hottest teams. It took some time, but by the end of the match they showed significant progress, pinning New York City back in their own half. They could not, however, deliver the killing blow.
"We felt we lost two points here," said defender Josh Williams after the match. "We limited their chances. Unfortunately, they had a good goal from [Kwadwo] Poku, can't take anything away from him and that finish. At the end of the day, we expect more from ourselves."
Poku's goal came just 16 minutes into the match, the second time Toronto FC has fallen behind early in as many matches. They still have not won this year when they have conceded a goal. TFC had a couple of good chances out of the gate, but couldn't convert, opening the door for New York City to take the early lead.
Giving the lead away played right into New York's hands, a side who were always going to be satisfied with an away point. A difficult travel schedule saw New York make several changes to their starting lineup. The wear and tear on their squad had many wondering if they were ripe for Toronto FC's picking.
"It's easy to play the game on paper before hand, right, and say they played in Portland on Sunday, they travelled, all these kinds of things," said Michael Bradley post game. "The game doesn't work like that. Ultimately, the whistle blows and everybody gets their chance. I thought ,by and large, we played pretty well."
After going down, however, Toronto FC did a much better job of responding to adversity than they did on Saturday. New York never really had another chance in the match as Toronto tightened up defensively. Instead, it was all Toronto as they spent the rest of the match trying to pick apart a stingy New York backline.
They only made it count once, a looping ball from Mo Babouli that found Williams unmarked behind the New York defence. Williams redirected the ball into the path of Will Johnson, who scored a tap-in to give Toronto their lone goal of the match.
Toronto had several chances after that, but could not convert. Babouli and Giovinco both found themselves in good scoring positions as Tsubasa Endoh had a solid game distributing the ball from the centre of midfield. Johnson had perhaps the best chance, but scuffed a low shot into the hands of Josh Saunders in the New York net.
"We created a number of chances over the course of [the match], got into dangerous areas," said Greg Vanney. "We have a breakaway early that unfortunately we don't get. I think we have a number of good looks at the goal but we don't find the back of the net."
Questions about Toronto FC's finishing have been asked all season and are even more relevant now that Jozy Altidore is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a hamstring injury. He headlined a string of key absences for Toronto FC yesterday, as Jonathan Osorio, Marky Delgado and Benoit Cheyrou were also on the sidelines.
In their place, Canadians Babouli and Jay Chapman started the match. The pair showed their inexperience at times: Chapman a little too reluctant on the ball, and Babouli trying to do too much. But both proved in the end to be capable replacements, and in theory, will only get better as they gain experience.
"I thought Mo had a good night, the only thing he missed [tonight] was a goal," said Vanney of his young striker. "I thought he played some very dangerous balls across the face of the goal. I thought he showed that he could hold up the ball under pressure from behind."
Toronto will have to again regroup as their difficult run of games continues this weekend against the Columbus Crew. The Crew are another visitor to BMO Field that could be seen as potentially limping. The club has had some off-field issues of late surrounding departed striker Kei Kamara.
But if Toronto FC has learned anything these past two games, it is not to underestimate a wounded animal. Otherwise, more points will be pried away from them at home.