TORONTO, Canada—For the third straight match, Toronto FC went down a goal, this time at the hands of expansion Inter Miami CF. But unlike the first two occasions that saw TFC drop from Supporters’ Shield favourites to underdogs, the Reds found a path back through an energized attack of Ayo Akinola, Richie Laryea, and Alejandro Pozuelo.
The 2-1 victory puts TFC square with Philadelphia Union, but 14 goals adrift on the tiebreaker. In order to finish atop the league for the second time in club history, Toronto will need a better result than Philadephia on Sunday; if Philly wins, it’s their Shield. A Philly draw, however, would leave the door open for a Toronto victory, and a Philly loss would allow Toronto to lift silver with any point.
As Michael Singh correctly reminds us each match day on Twitter, Toronto FC are still on the mend...
#TFCLive injury report for tonight's match vs. #InterMiamiCF:— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) November 1, 2020
OUT: M - Achara
OUT: F - Jozy Altidore
OUT: GK - Alex Bono
OUT: M - Pablo Piatti
OUT: M - Marky Delgado
OUT: D - Justin Morrow
QUESTIONABLE: M - Jonathan Osorio
It looks like Ayo Akinola will make his return.
...and that gave a deserved start to homegrown midfielder Ralph Priso, who had his name penciled into the first team Starting XI for the first time in his Reds career.
Young Ralph Priso becomes the 202nd @TorontoFC to start a match for the club.— Martyn Bailey (@martyn_bailey) November 1, 2020
The 198th to start an @MLS match for #TFCLive @WakingtheRed @vocalminorityCA @24thminute @joshuakloke https://t.co/6S6P5zBnt3
Priso impressed in his starting debut, being called “the best man in a red shirt” by Steven Caldwell halfway through the first half.
One of the forces that had been missing for Toronto in their mini-dip in form was the power and speed up top belonging to Akinola. Both were on display in his return to action.
The 1-1 strike appeared to be a massive boost for the club—his team-leading ninth of the campaign.
But with a win required to keep them in the Shield conversation, Toronto FC needed a go-ahead goal in the game’s final ten minutes. Cue Laryea’s usual frenetic energy in the box, which drew a foul and a penalty kick.
And up stepped Toronto’s designated penalty taker, Alejandro Pozuelo
It was Pozuelo’s 11th goal in 12 chances from the spot (TSN’s Kristin Jack rightfully noting SIX have been match winners.) Pozuelo has now met Sebastian Giovinco at the top of the list, but squandered far fewer chances getting there.
I also noted last week that Toronto FC have only failed to produce a 10-goal scorer in three seasons (in all competitions), and that 2020 was at risk of becoming the fourth. Last night both Ayo and Poz knocked on the door, and if Toronto FC hope to advance in the playoffs, surely a 10th will come from one (or both) of their boots.
Sunday night was an astounding 11th one-goal victory of the season for Toronto FC.
.@TorontoFC have now won 11 of their 13 matches by a single goal.— Martyn Bailey (@martyn_bailey) November 2, 2020
When #TFCLive lace up their boots, half the time it ends in a one-goal victory. @WakingtheRed @vocalminorityCA @24thminute @joshuakloke @KristianJack pic.twitter.com/L2T4HCK8cJ
Toronto FC also lowered their Goals Against per game to a record 1.09 (24 goals in 22 matches). If Toronto FC allow just a single goal at Red Bull Arena on Sunday, they’ll best their 2017 Treble Season record.
A win at RBA would also give them a shout for the Shield, and would lock up their best Points Per Game season in club history, also bettering that 2017 mark.
If @TorontoFC do the business next weekend, they'll set a new club record for PPG - besting their 2017 Treble record. #TFCLive @WakingtheRed @vocalminorityCA @24thminute @joshuakloke pic.twitter.com/NPoJJPmSXb— Martyn Bailey (@martyn_bailey) November 2, 2020
And finally, Quentin Westberg has kept Toronto in this Shield chase with his heroics in net. He’ll have a chance on Sunday to become only the second TFC keeper to win a dozen regular season matches in a season—joining teammate Alex Bono (again, 2017).