On a night where Toronto FC surely felt they deserved more, the Reds shared the spoils with the New England Revolution following an entertaining 2-2 draw at BMO Field.
The Revolution remain four points clear of TFC in the Eastern Conference standings as the race for the playoffs begins to heat up.
With seven goals scored in their previous two encounters prior to New England’s visit to BMO Field, TFC came into this one hungry for more.
Moreover, Bob Bradley made just one change to the XI that dispatched the Portland Timbers on Saturday, with Ayo Akinola replacing Jesús Jiménez up top. The Spaniard’s last goal for the Reds came on June 29th against the Columbus Crew, so TFC’s head coach duly felt it was time for a change.
Ahead of Wednesday’s fixture at BMO Field, Akinola had only found the back of the net once in 17 MLS games.
Former TFC defender Omar Gonzalez returned to Toronto for the first time since leaving the club at the end of the 2021 season, as he and the Revs looked to move clear of the playoff- chasing Reds.
The first 10 minutes of play saw TFC dominate possession, a key contributor to the side’s success in recent weeks. Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Jayden Nelson each pushed the tempo in midfield as the Reds hunted for an early goal.
Federico Bernardeschi produced the game’s first significant chance of the night, forcing Djordje Petrovic into parrying away the Italian international’s long-range effort. The former Juventus man simply loves himself a shot from distance.
The hosts continued to press for the all-important opener, this time through Akinola, whose header from a Bernardeschi cross floated just over the bar. There is no doubt that the Detroit-born forward would have been the hungriest of the bunch to grab the game’s first goal.
In the 29th minute, Toronto was awarded a penalty after Akinola was hauled down in the area by Christian Makoun. Bernardeschi, who scored the Reds’ spot-kick against Nashville, was yet again tasked with dispatching the penalty, and the Italian did just that. In doing so, he became the first Toronto FC player in history to score in their first three home games for the club.
Fun fact: Berna has scored every time he's stepped onto the pitch in Toronto @fbernardeschi | #TFCLive pic.twitter.com/taCsMFnGAq— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) August 18, 2022
Yet, TFC’s lead did not last long, as Thomas McNamara bagged the equalizer for New England six minutes later. Alex Bono was called into action to deny the visitor’s first two attempts at goal, but the former New York City FC midfielder was in the right place at the right time to pounce on the rebound and draw his side level.
Moments later, Insigne had a crack from distance in a bid to re-establish Toronto’s lead, but Petrovic was able to read it all the way as he punched the ball behind for a corner. A few months ago, TFC may have been on the back foot after conceding an equalizer. Now, they look a whole different team with regards to not letting momentum completely swing the other way.
There is no denying that Toronto was the better team during the first 45 minutes of play. The 1-1 scoreline was not a true reflection of who was the more dominant side in that first half, but nonetheless, all TFC eyes would have been on putting this match beyond New England’s reach.
In spite of TFC’s control in the first half, it was the visitors who would take their first lead of the game in the 48th minute through Justin Rennicks. The 23-year-old forward was beautifully put through by Carles Gil before slotting the ball right through a helpless Bono’s legs.
As a result of taking the lead on the road against an in-form opponent, New England began to sit back, with Gil and Rennick also supporting in defence.
On the hour mark, Richie Laryea was seemingly brought down inside the area, but the referee was having none of it. Even after consulting VAR, his decision stood. Criscito and Bernardeschi then combined shortly after, but the No. 10’s shot from close range was hit straight into Petrovic’s arms.
With the game now in its latter stages, BMO Field began to get louder and louder as fans spurred the Reds towards an equalizer. And in the 75th minute, it came in spectacular fashion.
From the top of the box, Criscito struck one on the volley, and boy did he set BMO Field alight.
THAT. WAS. SPECIAL.#TFCLive | #TORvNEpic.twitter.com/EtkYLhByEa— Waking the Red (@WakingtheRed) August 18, 2022
The former Genoa defender could not have hit that any cleaner. The power and the precision could simply not be matched. What a way to score your first for the club and first in front of your new home fans.
Much to the relief of the visiting Revolution, the Reds would fail to create another goal scoring chance after Criscito’s stunner.
The stalemate sees Toronto FC record their 30th MLS point of 2022 with eight matches left to play in the regular season.
After the game, Bob Bradley lamented his side’s failure to grab a deserved winner:
“At 2-2, there was real momentum to finish the game and get a third, but we weren’t able to do that.”
Akinola also spoke on how he believed he and his teammates should have recorded all three points:
“We definitely should have got three points today. Those were two points that we missed out on. We had chances on chances on chances.”
Despite dropping two points on the night, captain Michael Bradley remained confident that the fight is still well and truly on:
“We have not let anything faze us this year. That part has been really, really good. The mentality and the resolve of the group has been incredible.”
Toronto FC is back in action on Saturday, August 20th when they pay a visit to DRV PNK Stadium to take on Alejandro Pozuelo and Inter Miami.