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Toronto FC end poor campaign with loss to D.C. United

The Reds fall after first half of goals in Justin Morrow’s final MLS game

Toronto FC players get ready for final game of the MLS campaign, and the final game of Justin Morrow’s MLS career.
(Sean Pollock/Waking The Red)

TORONTO, Canada—Closing out the season in front of the home crowd at BMO Field, Toronto FC would fall 3-1 to D.C. United, with all eyes on the final MLS play for one of Toronto’s greatest players of all time, Justin Morrow.

With the international break taking place before TFC’s clash with CF Montréal in the season-defining Canadian Championship final, it was evident that Head Coach Javier Perez was going all guns blazing in what could potentially be the final game this year in front of the Toronto faithful.

A few changes were made from the starting lineup that played Wednesday night against Pacific FC, most notably, the captain’s armband in a final MLS match for Toronto FC’s second most-capped player, Justin Morrow. Other notable absentees from the 18 include Jacob Shaffelburg, who got injured in training yesterday, and Mark Delgado.

D.C., who needed a win and some help from others around the league in order to make the playoffs, started the game off strong. An onslaught of pressure was to come, beginning just four minutes in with a cutback from Paul Arriola being blazed off the top of the crossbar by Ola Kamara. Don’t worry, it got worse from there.

The Reds struggled to put together a bit of possession, and ultimately paid for their lacklustre start as United’s captain Steve Birnbaum finished off an in-swinging corner from Julian Gressel in the 14th minute to give the visitors a deserved 1-0 lead.

This marked the 15th time that TFC had conceded in the first 15 minutes of a game, a league-worst tally. TFC were not able to pick up the pace after conceding, immediately under pressure again three minutes later, as Ola Kamara was gifted two opportunities in front of goal.

Miraculous acts of defence from Jonathan Osorio and Quentin Westburg kept the Reds in the game, but it was clear that D.C. were knocking at the door.

Then in typical TFC fashion, they would turn the tides out of nothing just four minutes after D.C.’s goal. From the ensuing corner, Toronto were able to counter through Alejandro Pozuelo, eventually finding its way to Jonathan Osorio, who laid the ball off to fellow Canadian international Richie Laryea — and his deflected long-range shot crept past Bill Hamid, bringing the Reds back into the game.

After the moment of team brilliance by the home side, the game quickly took a turn back with D.C. constantly slipping in through balls to attacking players finding space in behind TFC’s back four.

The Reds would not learn their lesson, as Kamara was easily slipped in on goal and flicked the ball past an incoming Westburg to win a penalty, which he would roll straight down the middle to again give the visitors the lead at the half-hour mark.

After a poorly worked free kick from TFC, it was D.C. who got another chance from a corner. A beautifully worked, straight off the training ground, backheel play between Arriola and Gressel led to an easy shot for the former Atlanta United player, which was redirected out of Westburg’s path by an innovative backheel of his own from Kamara. With his second of the game in the 36th minute, Kamara would temporarily take the lead in the Golden Boot race.

The second half started with a trio changes from Perez, with Jozy Altidore, Jakheele Marshall-Rutty, and Chris Mavinga all making their ways off the field. The TFC central defender was taken off for concussion-related precaution from a knock picked up in the first half.

The final 45 was much less eventful than the first, with most of D.C.’s chances coming from sloppy passes by TFC’s own, although they were not able to find the net with great last ditch defending.

Most of Toronto’s second half opportunities came from substitutes Nick DeLeon and Dom Dwyer, with the former lasering a shot from outside the box just over Hamid’s goal.

The biggest moment of the game, and probably TFC’s season, occurred in the 90th minute as Javier Perez brought on Patrick Mullins as a substitute for Morrow, receiving the standing ovation that his service on and off the field has so justly deserved.

Although the result and season was not as he may have wished to sign off with, Morrow got his moment, and Toronto got their moment to thank him for the rise that he’s contributed to at this club.

Hugging teammates and opposition players as he walked off the field to chants of his name, immediately followed by the final whistle, almost poetic in a way.

With that comes the end to the MLS campaign for Toronto, with Luke Wileman saying it the best, as “TFC will end a season that they will be happy to forget”. A record 66 goals conceded, surpassing the record of 64 goals set in 2018, but if history is to repeat itself, TFC did make the MLS Cup final the year after ... so maybe it’s a good sign?

Next on the calendar is the the Canadian Championship final, the official end to the season, which will most likely be soon after the international break with CF Montréal missing out on the playoffs on Decision Day.

For now, to the 2021 MLS campaign, and to Justin Morrow’s illustrious MLS career, we bid farewell.