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Recap and Highlights: Lethargic TFC settle for a 0-0 draw against New England in final MLS is Back group match

Despite some favourable chances for both sides, the game was a slow burn that never caught fire

Toronto FC v New England Revolution - MLS Is Back Tournament
Both sides controlled the game at different times but neither managed to truly take command.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Maybe it was the early start, the good standing of both teams, or just the fact that a more reserved match was a virtual surety after the the Reds’ most recent clash with Montreal, but Toronto FC’s meeting with the New England Revolution was a somewhat by the numbers affair.

In that vein, the entire first half was rather genteel, which is a nice way of saying it was quite slow. TFC came out strong, but New England quickly adapted and took away some of their verve. In particular, they were focusing their efforts on shutting down Michael Bradley in the middle.

Pablo Piatti and Alejandro Pozeulo continued their blossoming partnership with some beautiful moments of movement around the pitch; and all signs show their synergy will continue to grow as they continue to play. Richie Laryea and Nick DeLeon had great energy as well in the opening half as well, although the former kept drifting into the centre of the field, curbing much of his usefulness in terms of distribution.

Of highest note for Toronto was their defence, which more than likely got a talking to from admiral Greg Vanney. They were looking poised, shutting down passes, and even making up for initial mistakes with overall steely look at all New England offence. Auro looked particularly good in the back.

At the 19th minute, last game’s hero Ayo Akinola found himself all alone versus the keeper, but even with a bit of quick feet, could not translate the point.

Both sides had fair chances, but neither side produced something to break the calm demeanour of the contest nor the deadlock. TFC saw more of the ball and were the better team, but at the 45 the score remained an even 0-0.

Note: It seems no one is immune to Greg Vanney’s charms, as even the commentators speculated on how glorious it is to hear his coaching trumpeted at his players throughout the game.

In the second half the Revolution had become much more decisive with their attack. They were creating chances and staying calm against TFC. Even during the transition they were playing with ferocity and grounding Toronto’s usual dominance. After only 10 minutes the feel of the game had changed tangibly.

Although Toronto was able to stabilize somewhat, the pendulum had shifted toward New England. At the 73rd minute had a particularly good chance at pointblank range, but an stunning save by Bono kept the match at parity.

At the 79th minute TFC answered the attempt. Akinola again found himself in view of the goal, and was able to manage a very strong run, beat the defender, and let go a lovely curling shot, but an outstanding save by the Revolution keeper maintained the balance.

A few minutes later Toronto had a penalty scare with a dubious defensive challenge by Bradley in the box. As fortune would have it, the referee thought it not worth the effort, and the match carried on.

At the 86th minute Vanney brought on Jozy Altidore, and on his first touch he threaded the needle to Akinola with a beautiful pass, which let directly into a foul right on the threshhold of the New England box. Initially tagged as a penalty, a review confirmed it was outside the line, and simply led to a free kick.

After five minutes of injury time, the game wrapped, TFC the better side in the opening half, but New England the better in the second half. With the tie, the Reds are assured a top two finish in the group and a spot in the knockout stages.