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FT: Toronto FC 3-2 Atlanta United

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The champions come to town.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

FT — What. A. Game. That was absolutely hilarious and a much-needed moment of excitement in this TFC season. Perhaps this energy could spark a turnaround for the Reds? The win has given them a better grasp on the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, and they showed a lot of abilities we haven’t seen much of this year.


99’ — AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA AND PITY MARTINEZ SKIES IT! THAT BALL PROBABLY LANDED ON THE GARDINER.

98’ — You have got to be kidding. That’s a penalty.

96’ — Incredible scenes. The ref blew for full-time, but now he’s taking a look at VAR to see if DeLeon handled the ball in the box on Atlanta’s final chance.

94’ Toronto FC 3-2 Atlanta United — POZUELO! The Spaniard, cool as a cucumber, freezes Brad Guzan and very calmly rolls it into the goal.

91’ — A decision went TFC’s way! Laryea is brought down in the box and the ref points to the spot immediately. He had a chat with VAR, but didn’t go to check it out.

89’ — Laryea how??? A fantastic opportunity falls to him in the box but his heavy touch causes the chance to fizzle as Brek Shea slides to block it.

81’ — Shaffelburg goes down hard, and now he’s really favouring his shoulder. HOW DARE ATLANTA TOUCH HIM

79’ — That does it for Tsubasa’s night. Jay Chapman comes in to replace him for the final 10 minutes.

69’ — Pozuelo just found Endoh with a beautiful through ball, and Tsuba put it off the bar with a rocket of a strike.

67’ — Not too much going on, although TFC have definitely had the better chances in this half. Shaffelburg and Pozuelo continue to be very dynamic, and Nick DeLeon just had a pretty decent shot as well.

46’ — We’re back.

HT — That’s it for the first 45. A pretty thrilling half, but definitely a few defensive kinks for TFC to iron out. Hell of a start for Shaffelburg, though!

40’ — Richie Laryea comes pretty close, breaking a defender’s ankles to get himself a shot after getting on the end of a dangerous Pozuelo through ball.

27’ Toronto FC 2-2 Atlanta United — This is a banger of a game. Shaffelburg continues his unbelievably bright start as he plays in a perfect cross from the left side to Pozuelo’s head for a good finish.

22’ Toronto FC 1-2 Atlanta United — Heh. There goes the good start. Ciman gets very easily walked around, Richie Laryea horribly mistimes a sliding clearance attempt, and Eriq Zavaleta is caught flat-footed. Julian Gressel gives Atlanta the lead.

16’ Toronto FC 1-1 Atlanta United — And it’s a penalty. Pity Martinez rolls it into the net as Westberg goes the wrong way. Tie game.

15’ — God damnit. Referee going down to the VAR box to check a possible Pozuelo handball in the box.

10’ — According to the club Twitter account, Tsuba’s goal is the fastest in club history.

1’ Toronto FC 1-0 Atlanta United — TSUBASA ENDOH! He wastes literally no time in scoring in his first start of the season, finishing a great low cross by Jacob Shaffelburg. Unreal stuff from the unlikely duo.

1’ — Alejandro Pozuelo kicks off for TFC, who head northward for the first half.

Lineups

Toronto FC: Well, it’s something. Cheers to Jacob Shaffelburg, making his first start. Also, Tsubasa is back!

Atlanta United:

Preview

A few days after losing disastrously at FC Dallas (which we won’t talk about), Toronto FC are back home tonight for a battle with the defending MLS Cup champions, Atlanta United. We’ll be hoping for another night like the last time Atlanta came to town — a hilariously decisive 4-1 win for the Reds to deny Atlanta the MLS points record and the Supporters’ Shield.

Currently, Atlanta sit fourth in the Eastern Conference with 26 points (seven more than TFC). They’ve also been off for a long time, having not played an MLS game since June 1 (they’ve played in the U.S. Open Cup, though, beating the Columbus Crew 3-2 last Tuesday).

Atlanta’s last two MLS games were comfortable clean-sheet home wins over Minnesota United and the Chicago Fire. That kind of defensive showing seems characteristic of them this season, as their 11 goals conceded (in 15 games) is easily best in the league. In fact, unlike last season, they seem to be struggling a bit at the attacking end of the pitch, with just 19 goals — well behind even Toronto FC at 26.

The funny thing is, they’ve still got Josef Martinez, who has 10 goals already. It’s just that nobody else seems able to score much, except Ezequiel Barco on occasion.

The good news for TFC is that Martinez won’t be there on Wednesday, since he’s still away at Copa America with Venezuela. So, Atlanta’s goalscoring options will be very limited.

Record signing Pity Martinez has really struggled to gel with Atlanta’s lineup despite his incredible skillset (and $17 million price tag), with just one goal and one assist to his name.

It’s the backline that’s winning games for Atlanta at the moment, with Leandro Gonzalez Pirez and Miles Robinson commanding the troops at centre-back. They’ll be a very tough team for TFC to break down.

Atlanta is more vulnerable than they were last year, but TFC have already seen this year that they’re still dangerous (the Reds lost 2-0 down in Georgia in early May).

Team news: injuries, suspensions & international duty

Toronto FC: Auro and Chris Mavinga are both listed as questionable with injury. The Reds will also (again) be without Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley (USA), Jonathan Osorio, Ashtone Morgan, and Noble Okello (Canada) on Gold Cup duty.

Atlanta United: Midfielders Hector Villalba and Kevin Kratz, as well as defender George Bello, are out with injury. Franco Escobar is suspended for this one, and star forward Josef Martinez is away on international duty with Venezuela.

How to watch

Match date/time: Wednesday, June 26, 8 p.m. ET
TV channel: TSN 4 & 5, Fox Sports South
Live stream: TSN GO, ESPN+
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto)