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Alex Bono the difference for Toronto FC in Eastern Conference semi-finals

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The young keeper sure made the most of his first two playoff starts.

MLS: Eastern Conference Semifinal-New York Red Bulls at Toronto FC Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Bono’s right leg might be the only reason Toronto FC are still alive in the 2017 MLS Cup playoffs. In the 62nd minute of Sunday’s Eastern Conference final second leg Bradley Wright-Phillips looked sure to score, only to be denied by Bono’s limb.

It would have been devastating for Toronto FC had the Red Bulls’ striker found the back of the net, completely reversing the 2-1 lead on aggregate they carried into the game. With the way Toronto were playing, it is debatable at best that they could have recovered.

“You never know throughout the course of a game, if they score that we could definitely come back and score ourselves,” Bono said, when asked if his save kept Toronto FC from elimination. “I don’t know [if the save] was series saving, it’s the job of the goalkeeper to make saves when he’s called upon and that’s all I was trying to do.

If this sounds a bit like deja-vu, that makes sense. In the first leg Bono made a similarly game saving stop to preserve a crucial Toronto FC win. There is no doubt that he has been the club’s best performer so far these playoffs.

Bono has allowed two goals so far in his first two professional playoff starts, neither of which can really be faulted to him. The first was a penalty in the first leg confidently slotted home by Daniel Royer, the second a deflection on which he had no chance.

Overall, Bono was credited with four saves during the two leg series against New York Red Bulls. For the second straight game he was voted by Waking the Red readers as the game’s best player.

While Bono stood strong as the club’s last line of defense, the backline as a whole was fairly solid over the two legs which is a good sign going forward. After a poor performance in the first leg, Drew Moor was solid on Sunday.

Moor was announced as the man of the match at BMO Field after putting in two tackles, an interception and 10 clearances. Eriq Zavaleta and Chris Mavinga were also solid, while Nick Hagglund continues to prove himself a big asset off the bench.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Waking the Red readers were not overtly happy with Toronto FC’s three designated players. Sebastian Giovinco (-49), Jozy Altidore (-103) and Michael Bradley (+9) were in the bottom five in the rankings.

This is probably due to a lack of discipline that, as of right now, will see Giovinco and Altidore miss the first match of the Conference finals. Altidore missed the second half of the match after being red carded for an incident in the tunnel at halftime.

Full Rate the Reds rankings:

  1. Alex Bono +187
  2. Nick Hagglund +144
  3. Chris Mavinga +136
  4. Nicolas Hasler +105
  5. Jonathan Osorio +102
  6. Drew Moor +95
  7. Victor Vazquez +94
  8. Eriq Zavaleta +88
  9. Justin Morrow +69
  10. Steven Beitashour +32
  11. Michael Bradley +9
  12. Greg Vanney -12
  13. Marky Delgado -27
  14. Sebastian Giovinco -49
  15. Jozy Altidore -103