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FT: Toronto FC 2-1 Atlanta United FC — MLS Cup Playoffs Game Thread

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The Reds take on their rivals from the dirty south for a spot in the finals

Toronto FC v Atlanta United FC
Alejandro Pozuelo #10 of Toronto FC dribbles past Eric Remedi #11 of Atlanta United during the game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium
(Riely/Getty)

LIVE Game Thread

FT: Toronto FC 2-1 Atlanta United — THE REDS ARE GOING TO THE MLS CUP FINALS FOR THE THIRD TIME IN FOUR SEASONS!!

90+4— ONE MORE MINUTE!!!

90+2— Guzan in the TFC box for Atlanta. The opposing GK comes up for the corner! WESTBERG WITH ANOTHER MASSIVE SAVE. I CAN’T KEEP UP!

90’— FIVE MINUTES OF ADDED TIME...oh boy.

89’— Richie Laryea has been great yet again since coming on. HOLD ON TFC!

87’— Great last-ditch challenge by Chris Mavinga to prevent Atlanta from getting in on goal. Crazy moments in the TFC box.... the Reds are hanging on. This is crazy!!

82’— Who’s having fun now #TFCLive??? 10 minutes or so to see out.

80’— Just when we though DeLeon didn’t have any options at the top of the box... wow. Take a bow.

78’— GOAL!!!!!!! NICK DELEON!!!! GET IN!!!!!!!! WHAT A STRIKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THAT WAS ICONIC! Toronto FC 2-1 Atlanta United. The Cinesphere just errupted.

76’ — Toronto have played better since their poor start to the second half, but they get lucky once again after Gressel loses the handle after skipping past Ciman at the edge of the box. Mavinga shaken up as well.

69’— Final change made for TFC, as Patrick Mullins comes on for Auro Jr. Vanney changing the shape. Let’s see if that ignites TFC. Atlanta still have all three of their subs remaining.

68’— Auro Jr. down hurt here. Hope he’s alright. Earlier, there was a big save yet again by Quentin Westberg, but Josef Martinez was offside — late flag by the linesman forces the TFC keeper to make yet again a spectacular save.

65’ — It took 20 minutes for Toronto FC to string together a long stretch of passes, but finally the Reds keep possession for a sustained amount of time, leading to a FK in the Atlanta half.

61’ — These last 30 minutes are going to be fun... or stressful. Don’t forget to enjoy.

60’ — It’s the same ball over the top every time. While Ciman has been admirable, TFC definitely miss Omar Gonzalez’s presence in the air.

59’— Again, Atlanta almost break down TFC, but Josef Martinez can’t finish from a sharp angle. Well done by Ciman to close him down, but you can’t give the Venezuelan striker that time and space.

56’ — DeLeon makes an immediate impact, driving forward to give TFC their first 12 chance since the break.

54’ — Good bit of insight from KJ there, as TFC have been way too weak up top. DeLeon coming on for Benezet to shore up the midfield, make the Reds tougher to play against. Loud ovation for Benezet from the faithful at the Cinesphere tonight after his beauty brought the game level in the first half.

52’ — There was a moment like this against New York City FC where Toronto looked lifeless. They managed to pull themselves out of it, on the back of Richie Laryea. With his legs, the youngster is tying to provide another spark here tonight, as TFC needs it. The Reds are playing with trouble. Nick DeLeon getting set to come on for Greg Vanney’s second sub.

49’ — Atlanta United have come out buzzing to begin the second half. Westberg has put out all of the early second half fires.. so far.

46’— We’re back. Richie Laryea comes on for Tsubasa Endoh.

HT: Toronto FC 1 - 1 Atlanta United: The reds are fortunate to get into the half tied at one. What do TFC need to change?

40’ — TFC’s nerves showing early. A lot of misplaced passes.

38’ — Another stop by Westberg after another poor giveaway from Bradley. He hasn’t had a great first half, neither has Auro.

33’ — Bail out call. Didn’t look like much contact on Martinez again. Dangerous FK for Atlanta coming up...blocked by the wall.

31’ — Nicolas Benezet picking up a small knock. He’ll run it off. Tsubasa Endoh taking a page out of the Atlanta United players, throwing himself to the ground on a couple of occasions. Referee isn’t buying it.

26’ — Great decision by Ciman to play it back to Quentin Westberg instead of kicking out for an Atlanta corner. The luxury of having two players at the back who are great with their feet

24’ — Danny Dichio chants here at the Cinesphere. Both sides have settled in a bit, which works in TFC’s favour on the road. They need to stay on their toes, watch out for that quick ball over the top that’s killed them so far.

20’ — I’ve noticed Laurent Ciman a ton tonight. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

18’ — Who is going to settle into this game first? You could tell this game was going to be a shootout.

16’ — THIS TORONTO FC PLAYOFF RUN HAS BEEN MADNESS. What a great pass by Ciman to find Benezet 1v1 on the left wing. The Westberg save that leads to the Benezet goal... this stuff is poetic man.

13’ — 1-1 GOAL!!!!!!!!!! BENEZET!! GOLASO. BENDS IT IN FAR POST. WE GOT A GAME.

11’ — QUENTIN WESTBERG WHAT A SAVE!!!!!!!!!! KEEPS THE GAME WITHIN REACH. Good time to bump Gianluca Lia’s article on the TFC goalkeeper,

9’ — What is happening? A simple ball over the top beats TFC? This is ugly. Bradley gets beat again. Penalty Atlanta United. VAR doesn’t help the Reds...despite a fair case.

5’ — For the first time this playoffs, Toronto FC will play from behind. It was a short-lived positive start for the Reds.

4’ — GOAL! Atlanta 1-0 TFC. Pity Martinez beats the offside trap and he lays it off for Gressel who taps it into the empty net. The counter attack catches the Reds out quick.

2’ — Ohhhhhh when the Reds go marching in..... BUZZING Cinesphere.

1’ — Back again. Eastern Conference Finals. We’re off.

8:09 p.m. — Seconds away from kickoff. Toronto FC wearing white tonight. Let’s go #TFCLive!

8:03 p.m. — Everyone standing up in the Cinesphere for the National anthems. You love to see it.

7:59 p.m. — This is the first ever sports broadcast at the Cinesphere. We’re making history out here.

7:57 p.m. — Comfortable with going with Laurent Ciman for a third straight contest? Or do you think Vanney should’ve started Omar Gonzalez?

7:52 p.m. — This Poz interview on TSN’s pre-game is jokes. Lovable character.

7:50 p.m.— I think it’s going to be a shootout tonight. Make sure you leave your guesses in our prediction league before kickoff!

7:37 p.m. — I highlighted three players to watch before the match tonight for some pre-game content to get you through to kickoff time:

7:30 p.m.— TFC FANS DON’T WANT PENALTIES. Panel predicts a win unanimously for Toronto FC — keeps those in attendance happy.

7:20 p.m. — Michael Bradley contract discussions here on the panel. Sounds unanimous that they wouldn’t justify another DP deal for the TFC captain

7:11 p.m. — Lineups are up. Same XI for the Reds. What a great story Laurent Ciman has been. No Jozy Altidore in the 18.

7:05 p.m.— Mitchell Tierney’s turtleneck is mediocre at best. Great hair, though.

7:00 p.m. EST — Buzzing. We’re live from the Cinesphere at Ontario Place in Downtown Toronto tonight for the Footy Talks viewing party! Great early showing for the panel with The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke, OneSoccer’s Oliver Platt, and our very own Mitchell Tierney.


Starting Lineups

Same XI for the Reds vs. Atlanta United FC...

Josef Martinez leads the way for the bad guys...


In-Depth Preview (courtesy Brady Reid)

Last Wednesday in Queens, an Alejandro Pozuelo panenka at the death earned Toronto FC a 2-1 victory over New York City FC and a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The following night, Atlanta United imposed their will on Philadelphia Union from the get go as they cruised into the next round with a 2-0 result at home.

With only TFC and ATL remaining in the East, the stage is set for Wednesday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium where the 2018 MLS Cup Champs will host the 2017 winners with a spot in this year’s MLS Cup Final up for grabs.

In the early stages of 2019, Atlanta United looked to be taking a page out of Toronto’s book from 2018 as the MLS Cup hangover was in full swing. With midfielder Miguel Almiron heading across the pond to join Newcastle United, Atlanta struggled out of the gate, winning just one of their first six matches.

Following their slow start, Atlanta turned their season around in a big way finishing with a 18-12-4 record at the end of the regular season, which was good enough for second place in the Eastern conference. Much of their success can be attributed to 2019 MLS MVP finalist Josef Martinez, who scored nearly half of his sides goals throughout the year (28 out of 58.)

Both Eastern Conference sides come into Wednesday’s match-up in fine form. Toronto FC come into the contest unbeaten in a franchise-record twelve straight MLS contests dating back to the regular season. Meanwhile, Atlanta United are yet to concede a goal in their two playoff matches and are 12-3-1 in their last sixteen matches across all competitions.

During the regular season, the two clubs faced off twice with the home side emerging victorious on both occasions. Back in May, a largely second-string TFC side fell 2-0 to Atlanta on the road with many regulars, including Jonathan Osorio and Marky Delgado, sitting out the match.

In Toronto the following month, the Reds defeated the “Five Stripes” 3-2 at BMO Field. Many key players on both sides were absent once again thanks to various International competitions being played simultaneously. For Atlanta, their talisman Josef Martinez was unavailable due to Copa America commitments with Venezuela.

Drawing conclusions from the club’s previous fixtures this season is difficult as the best XI’s on both sides have yet to face off in 2019.


The four remaining sides around the league consists of the three previous MLS Cup Champions as well as the Supporters Shield winners from 2019. While the club is confident heading into Atlanta on Wednesday, TFC veteran defender Justin Morrow recognizes the challenge his side faces in the Eastern final as well as in a potential MLS Cup Finals match.

“It’s going to be tough, for sure it’s going to be tough,” said Morrow ahead of tomorrow’s match. “But, to win in this league you are going to have to beat good opponents now. Everybody’s getting better and better every year, and to have these four (teams) left, I think it shows the quality of MLS.”

For TFC, the availability of Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore is once again in question. Of the two, Gonzalez appears to be available to play on Wednesday after finding a spot on the bench against NYCFC.

According to Toronto FC’s Gareth Wheeler, Gonzalez is “available for tomorrow”.

Meanwhile, the Altidore scenario doesn’t look promising.

Also, TFC GM Ali Curtis joined Sportsnet’s “Writers Bloc” radio show on Friday. Having been questioned on the health status of Altidore, Curtis’ comments suggested the club is more hopeful the striker will be available for a potential MLS Cup Final match rather than this week.

Atlanta United were dealt a huge blow ahead of Wednesday as coach Frank de Boer confirmed defender Miles Robinson has been ruled out of the clash with Toronto. Robinson was named alongside teammate Josef Martinez and TFC’s Alejandro Pozuelo in MLS’ best XI while also being named as a finalist for the 2019 MLS Defender of the year.

Historically, Atlanta has won just once in six matches against TFC since entering Major League Soccer in 2017. Considering the depletion of the Reds group that took the field on that particular night, it’s safe to say Toronto won’t be dwelling on that result back in May.

While the Reds are being viewed as underdogs heading into the match, the odds didn’t prevent them from getting a result last week at Citi Field. With the prospect of a third trip to the MLS Cup final in four years setting the stage, expect a confident TFC side to take to the turf at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday.

Additional Notes:

  • Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez has four goals and two assists in just four appearances against Toronto FC in his MLS career.
  • On October 22nd 2017, Toronto and Atlanta played to a 2-2 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on MLS Decision Day. The match is best remembered for two Sebastian Giovinco moments, including one of his finest free-kicks in a TFC shirt as well as an infamous beer drinking scene.

Predicted Starting XI

We were close...

Waking the Red’s predicted starting XI vs. Atlanta United FC
(Jeffrey P. Nesker/Waking the Red)

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