The only thing better than watching the Toronto summer sunset is watching that sunset during a TFC game at BMO Field.
Javier Perez’s men came from 1-0 down to salvage a point in their second match at BMO Field in the space of five days. The draw means that TFC are now on a three match unbeaten streak, their longest run of the season so far. Progress nonetheless after the Reds lost six straight games between May 22nd and July 3rd.
With five points from his first three MLS games in charge, Perez continues to slowly but surely propel this Toronto FC side towards a playoff push, and with more than half of the season left to play, you just have to wonder what this TFC side has in store for the remainder of the campaign.
Signs of progress TFC post-Armas were evident even before kickoff, as Javier Perez named an unchanged eleven from the side that drew with Orlando last weekend. Stability is key, and that all starts with ensuring that starters can consistently play with each other week in week out.
The Red Bulls, who are hovering just under the playoff spots, needed the win as much as TFC after winning just one of their last four league games. After their clash with Inter Miami on July 17th was postponed, Gerhard Struber’s men came into the game as arguably the fresher side.
Shortly after kickoff, a bit of chaos ensued as poor defending from Chris Mavinga and Omar Gonzalez set Wikelman Carmona off towards goal. Despite the Veneuzelan being clean through, a brave move by Alex Bono, which led to him needing some minor treatment, prevented an early NYRB lead.
It was then Toronto’s turn to try and draw blood, and who better to do so than Yeferson Soteldo. Electric as usual, TFC’s No. 30 got into space and fired a well struck shot narrowly wide from the top of the box.
A reply from the Red Bulls came minutes later through Carmona once again, but a perfectly timed block-tackle from Auro Jr. saved TFC from going a goal down. Like Bono, Auro did require treatment from the physios following his valiant challenge, but the aftermath of his defensive effort proved to be much more severe.
In spite of coming back onto the pitch, Auro’s game was over in the 17th minute after looking increasingly uncomfortable since making that goal-saving tackle. Mark Delgado thus moved to right-back in order to make way for Auro’s replacement, Ralph Priso.
From the very start, it was obvious that the NYRB looked to close down Soteldo every time the Venezuelan got on the ball. While Soteldo was constantly closed down by Kyle Duncan and co, both Alejandro Pozuelo and Dom Dwyer remained ineffective as Toronto created little in terms of goal scoring opportunities during the opening 30 minutes.
With neither side able to conjure up a significant chance on the attack, what this game needed was an injection of urgency as the halftime whistle loomed. The Red Bulls were more controlled in possession, but TFC’s dogged defence continued to keep the visitors away from Bono’s goal.
Just before the break, Soteldo’s driven cross from the edge of the area fell to Tsubasa Endoh, whose poor first touch let him down ended TFC’s brief offensive threat.
Ultimately, Toronto looked tired during the first 45 minutes. More conviction and structure was needed from Perez’s man, most notably upfront where the Reds looked quite flat for the majority of the half.
An improvement was due coming out of the break, but the exact opposite occurred in the opening 40 seconds as a Gonzalez error resulted in former Celtic striker Patryk Klimala slotting the ball home to open the scoring for New York. The Polish striker then almost doubled his side’s lead moments later, but his header drifted wide of Bono and the net.
Toronto then created their first chance of the second half via Dom Dwyer, who skipped past a pair of defenders only to find his effort go behind for a goal kick.
The visitors were full of energy in early stages of the second half and TFC needed to ring the changes. Cue Jozy Altidore’s entrance into the game.
The veteran American forward was brought on to make an impact, and he did just in the 62nd minute. As Altidore looked to connect with Soteldo’s cross, he forced Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Miguel Coronel to come off his line and tip the ball away. Priso, an unlikely goalscoring candidate, found himself in the right place at the right time as he drove the ball into the back of the net to equalize for Toronto. What a way to grab your first professional career goal.
Priso’s strike means that he is the 15th different goalscorer for TFC this year and the 117th scorer in the club’s history.
At last, TFC had some life in them, and with 25 minutes left to play and the home fans spurring their players on, BMO Field hoped to be in store for a thrilling conclusion to this game. Given the circumstances, tensions started to flare in the latter stages of the match as some players got into a bit of a scrum after Pozuelo was harshly brought down.
Momentum was firmly on Toronto’s side and they almost found themselves in front through Endoh, but his shot-like cross went marginally wide.
As the 90th minute edged ever closer, New York’s 24-year-old Braziliian starlet Fabio ripped an effort into the side netting in an attempt to re-establish the visitors’ lead. A series of corners for the Red Bulls produced nothing, with Toronto’s defenders subsisting themselves at the back.
Deep into injury time, Altidore cheekily laid a ball off to Endoh, only for the Japanese winger’s shot from close range to go out for a corner following an impressive block. A minute later, Soteldo dazzled the home crowd with some eye-catching footwork, which was then followed by a cross to an unmarked Altidore, who in dismay, watched his header fly over the bar.
Frustrated would be the word to describe how Toronto’s players felt as the final whistle sounded. With the spoils shared, TFC fans in attendance must now to wait another one and a half weeks for the next opportunity to watch a win at BMO.
Overall, the fighting desire that Perez’s men showed in the second 45 was inspiring to say the least. This game marks the first time TFC earned at least a point in MLS after coming from behind, with Javier Perez still unbeaten after three games at the helm of the club.
The Reds’ next opportunity to secure their first win at home since March 2020 will now come on August 1st against Nashville SC. This coming weekend, the Reds head back to the States to take on the Chicago Fire, who sit just two points ahead of TFC in the Eastern Conference.
Now, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again and again; it is an absolute joy to see the players and the fans back in Toronto. Here’s to another sea of red flooding Princes’ Boulevard on August 1st.