TORONTO, Canada—A thrilling game at BMO Field as Toronto FC would come back from a two-goal deficit in the second half following the substitutions of both Jozy Altidore & Michael Bradley to draw an in-form New York City FC side on Saturday night.
The team will once again have to settle for just one point, but they’ll take that after the way the match started.
Prior to this one, the Reds received some positive news as reigning MVP Alejandro Pozuelo was healthy and fit enough to find his place back in the club’s starting lineup after missing the previous two matches with a lower leg injury. Along with Jozy Altidore and Yeferson Soteldo, Pozuelo’s addition would mean that Saturday night would mark the first time this season that all three designated players would be fit enough to make the Starting XI.
However, despite new faces, old habits would prevail, as once again TFC would find themselves trailing early in this one. A fantastic couple of give-and-go’s at the top of the Reds box would carve Toronto FC’s defence apart and the tidy play would eventually be finished by Santiago Rodriguez to put the visitors ahead by one in the 11th minute.
And just 10 minutes later, things would go from bad to worse for the home side.
A terrible back pass from Eriq Zavaleta, after he was put under pressure from a couple of poor touches from Kemar Lawrence, would eventually end up in the back of the net after Ismael Tajouri-Shradi would walk in and slot home through the legs of Alex Bono.
Temperatures would boil over slightly towards the end of the first half as both Richie Laryea and Yeferson Soteldo would both retaliate on separate plays to pick up unnecessary yellow cards, even though the one on Soteldo was a clear bit of embellishment via Maxime Chanot of NYCFC, who went down holding his face despite Soteldo clearly hitting his arm.
Hmmm that doesn’t look like his face pic.twitter.com/8nZ09SpKzI— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) August 8, 2021
With Toronto FC trailing by two, at halftime, coach Javier Perez and his staff would make two monumental substitutions that would alter the course of this match. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore would be subbed off in place of Ralph Priso and Achara — and what a difference that would make.
Not even five minutes into the second half, the club will draw themselves back to within one after some nifty build-up play would result in Pozuelo pulling the final string in the middle of the park, releasing Laryea through the middle, and the Canadian international would make no mistake, slotting under Johnson and simultaneously awaking the fans at BMO Field.
And seven minutes later, the team accomplish what looked like the impossible in the first half.
Achara would be played in behind, and in his second game ever at BMO Field, he would calmly square a pass to Pozuelo and the Spaniard would tap home to bring this game back level—a significant response from the players on the pitch after two talismanic figures in Bradley and Altidore were substituted off.
With fans in the stands back to cheering at the top of their lungs, TFC would continue to mount the pressure as chances from Soteldo, Pozuelo, and Achara were all denied.
The club would have one more chance to snag a late winner right before the final whistle.
A free kick in New York City FC’s half would eventually find its way back to Soteldo at the top of the box, and trickster would cleverly turn to create space for an on-running Kemar Lawrence. The veteran fullback would cut a ball back into the middle where Nick DeLeon — moments after checking into the match — would find himself with a glorious opportunity right in front of Johnson, however, the NYCFC keeper would come up with a massive save to keep things level, as that’s how this one would end.
The biggest story of this one was the halftime substitutions of the two Toronto FC legends and how the club responded. Here’s what Javier Perez had to say after the game on the substitution of Michael Bradley, who seldomly gets withdrawn from matches.
Javier Perez on subbing off Michael Bradley: "I think it's a difficult situation because Michael is the captain ... he's the heart and soul of the team, but tonight, the team needed something different and we made the change for just the good of the team." pic.twitter.com/muZ07WMTQY— Michael Singh (@MichaelSingh94) August 8, 2021
Straight fire from Toronto FC’s interim head coach.
All in all, it was a thrilling night at BMO Field, despite the team’s comeback coming up slightly short in the end. The team will try and carry this momentum forward next Saturday when they host another tough opponent in New England Revolution.