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FT: TFC 1-3 NYCFC—Match thread, starting XI, and how to watch

Win or go home, let’s do this. Follow along with Michael Singh as Toronto FC are back in action—a must-win game if the team wants to advance to the quarter-finals of the MLS is Back Tournament.

Toronto FC v New York City FC: Knockout Round - MLS Is Back Tournament
Glimpse of Jayden Nelson doing work off the ball in his MLS debut


FT: Toronto FC 1-3 New York City FC. The Reds are knocked out at the Round of 16 stage.

90+2—Two minutes left. NYCFC hit the cross bar again after a shot is partially blocked by Chris Mavinga but finds the woodwork.

90’—Chance! Heber has a 25-yard breakaway, attempts to chip Q but hits the crossbar. Credit to Jacob Shaffelburg who almost caught the NYCFC attacker.

87’—GOAL! Toronto FC 1 - 3 NYCFC. Great pass from Jacob Shaffelburg to find Jozy Altidore, who nods it down to a streaking Patrick Mullins who finishes. This seems like a match Mullins would score in.

83’—I’m salty. Serious 2019 MLS Cup Final vibes.

81’—GOAL! Toronto FC 0 - 3 NYCFC. Good night.

80’—The Reds have come somewhat close of late, but there’s still no end product. Osorio looking rusty. Bradley looking tired.

72’—Quentin Westberg with another brilliant save going post-to-post to deny Heber, who just entered the match.

68’—Decent chance from Toronto FC there as Osorio heads an Auro Jr. cross wide. It wasn’t an easy chance, but it was a chance.

66’—25 mintues to play, TFC have looked more interested in the extra curriculars as opposed to finishing off the match. Can they salvage something out of this?

58’—Nothing in that, but a foul by Jozy stirs things up in his first impact on the game.

56’—Three TFC subs coming. Gallardo, Altidore, Osorio. Too little too late from Vanney? Nelson, Piatti, and DeLeon come off.

55’—GOAL 2-0 New York City FC. Way too easy. No pressure from the midfielders tracking back and Omar Gonzalez makes it way too easy for Castellanos to cut inside and slot it in the corner. Wow.

53’—Great stat. Nelson becoming the 200th player to dress for the club. This kid is going to be a star. In other news, still no Jozy Altidore or Jonathan Osorio. Come on.

49’—We see you Jayden Nelson.

47’—Penalty shout for NYCFC as Laryea gets tangled in the box with a New York player. Held my breath, thankfully we didn’t see VAR come into play here. WASN’T CLEAR AND OBVIOUS.

46’—Did Greg Vanney make no subs? It was a great end to the half, but that’s wild to me.

How big will this save from Quentin Westberg end up being?

HT: TFC 0 - 1 NYCFC. The Reds trail at half for the first time in the tournament. What do the Reds need to change?

45+1—TFC looking dangerous...finally. Only three minutes before the half to make due.

44’—CHANCE for Jayden Nelson! A great pass by Michael Bradley makes it’s way all the way through but the 7 year old can’t shake the last defender. He’s looked dangerous.

42’—Got our first glimpse of Jayden Nelson magic. Great footwork on the sideline absolutely fools the NYCFC defender.

39’—I didn’t laugh, I swear. If you know, you know.

37’—Great ball by Pozuelo finds DeLeon cutting across the New York back line and he earns a free kick in the corner. Nothing comes of it, however, as NYCFC heads clear a Piatti cross.

35’—BIG TIME FROM Q! Medina gets in behind as Mavinga gets caught watching, but Westberg—as he’s done since arriving—makes a momentum-swinging save. Will that wake the Reds up?

29’—Aside from that disaster that we saw against D.C. in the final 10 minutes of the match, easily the worst 30 minutes of football from the Reds so far. What needs to change?

16’—New York follows it up with a free header in the box that goes over the net. Cool. Cool. Cool. cool. cool. cooooool.

15’—Yellow Card. Omar Gonzalez’s turn to find himself in the book as Gonzalez goes through Castellanos’ back while challenging for a header, sending the NYCFC player into the advertising signs.

14’—Pozuelo’s been getting some chances by pressing, eh?

12’—Yellow Card. Terrible sliding challenge from NYCFC midfielder Ring who finds himself in the book. Looked worse than it probably was, but still reckless.

9’—Chance! Some great work down the right wing produces a chance for Marky Delgado in the box, who can’t get a shot away and then Jayden Nelson’s follow-up effort is blocked.

7’—TFC are wildin’ out! I can’t even describe what Omar Gonzalez just attempted to do, but another chance for NYCFC is scrambled clear.

6’—GOAL! Toronto FC 0 - 1 New York City FC. A sloppy clearance off a free kick finds its way to Jesus Medina and he makes no mistake, powering a strike past Quentin Westberg, who gets a touch on it but it’s not enough. Definitely a rough start so far for the Reds.

4’—A bit of a sloppy start for TFC and a half-hearted NYCFC penalty shout. Nothing in it, however.

1’—Weather holds off for now and we’re off. As has been the norm throughout the tournament, players and the referee take a moment before kickoff to take a knee, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement.


8:32: p.m. EST—Great pregame show TSN. I’m pumped. Love the energy.

8:20 p.m. EST—Yikes. The TSN broadcast just said weather may play a big factor tonight and panned to the skies...rain looks to be on the horizon. Let’s pray it can hold off long enough for some footy tonight.

8:10 p.m. EST—Jayden Nelson is a star in the making. If Greg Vanney didn’t have confidence in the 17 year old, he wouldn’t play him in such a crucial game. He’s quick, shifty, direct, and tries to make things happen. It won’t take long for the electric winger to catch your eye.

8:01 p.m. EST—Things just got a whole lot more interesting in the last 20 minutes. We’re about 30 minutes away from kickoff. Still buzzing.

7:54 p.m. EST—STARTING XI’s are in. Nelson gets the start, welcome to your global debut kid. No pressure.

7:52 p.m. EST—FREE THE KIDS. Obviously devastating for Akinola, but I had Jayden Nelson ranked #2 on my pre-MLS is Back Tournament Rising Stars ranking. The talent is legit.

7:42 p.m. EST—BREAKING: According to TSN’s Kristian Jack, Ayo Akinola will miss the match due to hamstring tightness. 17 year old Jayden Nelson will make his MLS debut.

7:40 p.m. EST—I’m not going to lie, the single-elimination aspect makes me a bit nervy. But then I keep remembering that the Reds have Poz, and we know what Poz does to New York.

7:27 p.m. EST—And we’re off: the first beverage has been opened. An ice-cold corona, fitting. What are y’all drinking and is anyone watching from anywhere special today?

7:16 p.m. EST—The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke is hearing that Altidore will indeed start on the bench, while Oso also returns to the 23-player matchday roster.

7:07 p.m. EST—Will Jozy Altidore start alongside Ayo Akinola tonight? We’re about 30 minutes away from the starting XI dropping. TFC’s record vs NYCFC all-time is 6-4-5 in favour of the Reds, most recently on March 7 when rookie Achara scored an 81st-minute winner to send the BMO Field faithful home happy.

6:30 p.m. EST—Please no penalties. Please no penalties. Just a heads up, this game will go to penalties if tied at the end of extra time. If it does go to the spot kicks, we know how the Reds’ struggle already, but for what it’s worth, they’ve scored more times from 12 yards out against NYCFC GK Sean Johnson than any other keeper in the league (h/t Martyn Bailey’s By the Numbers ahead of today’s match. Must-read.)

6:00 p.m. EST—We’re back!!! After playing three games in the span of eight days, TFC are back following a five day layoff. It feels almost weird doing this at night, but friendly reminder that there are no more day games for the rest of the tournament should the Reds advance. As always, be sure to make your guesses for today’s final scoreline in our prediction league before the start of kickoff!


Here’s how we’re projecting the Reds will line up tonight against NYCFC. We’re predicting both Jonathan Osorio and Jozy Altidore will make appearances off the bench, while Richie Laryea makes the start at left-back again as Justin Morrow recovers from Achilles Tendonitis.

WTR’s predicted Toronto FC starting XI vs. New York City FC in the Round of 16 at MLS is Back
(Graphic via Jeffrey P. Nesker/Waking The Red)

MATCH PREVIEW (Courtesy Aasim Hashim)

TORONTO, Canada—After a dull 0-0 draw with the New England Revolution and thanks to a 1-0 Montreal Impact win, Toronto FC is preparing itself for the knockout stage of the MLS is Back Tournament as the Group C winners. The Reds will take the field in Round of 16 action on Sunday night against New York City FC. Kickoff is set for 8:30 pm.

In something of a rarity at this tournament, Toronto and NYCFC will meet each other for the second time this season, having already faced off once in 2020. The two clubs met in Toronto back in March during the Reds home opener, where the home side walked away with a hard fought 1-0 victory through an Achara winner

After Tuesday’s match against the Revs, Alex Bono, who had a rare start in the TFC goal, applauded the mental strength of the Reds:

The difficulties TFC have had in closing out matches have been talked about ad nauseam. In two of the three matches at the MLS is Back Tournament, the Reds have given up injury time goals—once to D.C. United, which helped the undermanned United to a draw, and a late goal to Montreal that made the ending a little bit more uncomfortable for Greg Vanney’s side. Thanks to a big save from Bono on Tuesday, the Reds were able to hang onto a much needed clean sheet, which ultimately helped Toronto secure top spot in Group C.

Greg Vanney rotated his squad during the final group stage, however, most key players did keep their place in the squad. As the game wore on, some of the Reds looked as though the tough tournament schedule and the Florida heat were taking a toll. Vanney will be hoping that four days of rest, hanging by the pool and a bit of golf, will help his team get some much needed energy in their legs.

The extra days off will also mean there’s a real possibility we’ll see Jonathan Osorio feature for the Reds. Osorio and Jozy Altidore are both notable Reds who have missed some time during this tournament, but thanks to Ayo Akinola’s hot goal scoring streak, TFC have been able to survive without their lead talisman. Altidore did feature on Tuesday morning, and instantly showed his quality.

Vanney opted for a two striker set with Altidore’s introduction, pairing Altidore and Akinola up top, but will likely revert back to just the one striker as TFC take to the field on Sunday. While the more experienced Altidore did look good in his return, Vanney will likely opt for what’s worked so far and stick with Akinola in the starting eleven.

Osorio’s absence, however, has had a much bigger impact on the TFC midfield. His directness and link up play between midfield and forward has been sorely missed.

While Alejandro Pozuelo has been brilliant so far, his five assists a testament to that, and Pablo Piatti fitting in well with the Reds offence, being able to add a skill player like Osorio is only going to free those attacking players more, creating even more chances for this potent Toronto offence.

Greg Vanney seems hopeful of Osorio’s return to the squad. Speaking after Tuesday morning’s match, the TFC head coach was confident Osorio would be ready for the next match.

“Now our games move to night, we’re getting our legs underneath us, Jozy [Altidore] is getting back into the fold, [Jonathan] Osorio should be ready for the next game, so the team continues to build,” Vanney told reporters after the match. “And that’s what these events are about, especially when they’re coming off of four months of doing nothing.”

The perks of winning Group C means that TFC are paired with New York City, the third Wild Card team. The Blues have not had the tournament they were hoping for when they arrived in Florida.

NYCFC lost their opening two games of the MLS is Back Tournament to the Philadelphia Union and Orlando City 1-0 and 3-1, respectively. Dating back to the start of the MLS season, NYCFC have now only managed one win in four outings - their only win came in the group stage finale against MLS newcomers, Inter Miami. Safe to say that the Blues aren’t coming into the knockout stage on a high.

There is enough evidence to suggest that the Reds are well equipped to deal with New York City FC. The Blues have been a high flying team in the past, but TFC have had an answer for them most of the time, especially at key moments. The two have squared off in the MLS Cup Playoffs on a couple of occasions, and TFC have disposed of the Blues in both instances, including last year’s Conference Semi-Finals.

While TFC may be the more confident team heading into Sunday, tournament play means all the good will the Reds built up in the group stage doesn’t mean much. It’s one game and it can all come down to a shootout so Vanney’s men will have to be wary of not looking past New York City FC just yet.

Additional Notes

  • Tuesday’s draw means Toronto FC unbeaten streak now stands at 15 games. Their last loss came in a 2-0 defeat to the New York Red Bulls in August 2019.
  • Something to watch for: should TFC and NYCFC be tied after 90 mins, the game will head straight to a shootout.
  • Jozy Altidore’s appearance on Tuesday was his 142nd appearance for the club, 6th most in TFC history (tied with Sebastian Giovinco).


Consistent with the rest of the tournament, fans in Canada can catch Toronto FC vs New York City FC on TSN 1/4. Don’t be shy to share your thoughts below in our comments, you know I’ll be there.