Full time, and Toronto FC have stolen a point at the death in Atlanta. Tosaint Ricketts’ equalizer means that every game every between the Reds and Atlanta United has finished 2-2. TFC have now leapfrogged both Chicago and Orlando, moving into eight place in the Eastern Conference.
It’s a new season now for TFC. They’re five points out of the playoffs, with 12 games left to play. A pretty solid performance today, despite being on the back foot for a lot of it, but a point in Atlanta is a point in Atlanta.
95’ — The final whistle has gone, but there’s a scuffle on the pitch. Chris Mavinga is sent off for a strike on Miguel Almiron’s face. This game is over, but Mavinga will miss next week against NYC FC as well.
91’ Atlanta United 2-2 Toronto FC — Wicked. Sebastian Giovinco sends a perfect ball through to Jonathan Osorio, who squares it for Tosaint Ricketts. The Edmontonian knocks it into the net with his shin while sliding. Quick VAR check to see if Tos was offside, but we carry on. They don’t make better passes than than. The Reds have equalized!
88’ — Seba hits the crossbar from just outside the box, having beaten Guzan completely. About as close as they come.
83’ — Alex Bono makes another fantastic save, stopping Miguel Almiron point-blank again. The Atlanta star was just fast enough to get away from Eriq Zavaleta, but Bono was there to keep it 2-1.
80’ — Victor Vazquez is coming out, to be replaced by Tosaint Ricketts. This should give Giovinco more leash to drop deep and create for Ricketts and Altidore.
67’ Atlanta United 2-1 Toronto FC — A more familiar feeling this year. Josef Martinez scores quite a pretty goal on a diving header, and the home side go ahead. Not great marking from TFC’s centre-backs.
60’ — Sebastian Giovinco gets a yellow card for a kick out on Eric Remedi. He’s one away from a suspension now.
59’ — Marky Delgado is coming in to try and steady the ship for Toronto. Auro goes off after a strong hour’s work.
52’ Atlanta United 1-1 Toronto FC — Frustrating start to the second half for TFC. Alex Bono appeared to make a wonderful save on Josef Martinez, but the Atlanta forward went down after running into the TFC keeper. Penalty called, and VAR gives the Reds no love. Martinez puts the spot kick coolly into the bottom left corner.
45’ Atlanta United 0-1 Toronto FC — A decent half from TFC becomes a fantastic half as they take the lead on the cusp of halftime! Wonderful run into the box from Auro, who sends in a good flat pass across to Sebastian Giovinco. The Italian doesn’t miss from there. Not great defending by the Atlanta centre-backs, but still an excellent team goal from the Reds.
39’ — ALEX BONO. What an incredible point-blank save as Martinez and Almiron came in on a 2-on-0 (which might’ve been offside). Favouring his shoulder afterward though, which is concerning. Looks like he’ll stay in the game, for now at least.
27’ — Alex Bono has balls of steel, as he comes hurtling out of the box to head away a counter-attack before Atlanta can do anything with it.
23’ — Terrifying moment there as Josef Martinez feeds a perfect ball through to Miguel Almiron, who finds himself completely alone. The finish is terrible, though, as he hesitates too long and shanks it wide of the right post.
20’ — Not much so far from either side save for a few decent buildups that never challenged a goalkeeper. Still, it’s been a pretty open, back-and-forth match so far. Surely goals are coming.
1’ — Game on at the Benz!
Lineups are posted at the bottom. Auro returns to the XI for TFC, while Jon Bakero makes the bench for the first time. This could be a fun game.
It’s been a nice couple of weeks for Toronto FC fans. Instead of sitting through face-meltingly boring losses to FC Dallas and Orlando City, the Reds have actually put some wins together — against the Ottawa Fury and Chicago Fire (twice each). That’s pretty neat, if you ask me, and it has fans believing that a shade of the 2017 TFC may be back.
Tonight, though, will either be a sharp kick in the ass back to reality, or a piece of bona fide proof that the Reds still are a top team in MLS. For those unaware, Toronto FC will be at the cavernous Mercedes-Benz Stadium this afternoon to take on the mighty Atlanta United, in a clash between last year’s runaway Supporters’ Shield winner, and this year’s.
If you’ve looked at the standings recently, you’ll have noticed that this match could be a significant turning point for TFC in a concrete sense as well as a metaphorical one. A win tonight could theoretically vault them as high as eighth in the conference, since they’re tied on points with tenth-place Orlando (22) and just one behind ninth-place Chicago (23).
That’s getting way ahead of ourselves, though. Atlanta is, unequivocally, the best team in MLS this season. They’ve scored an unreal 48 goals this season, 24 of which came off the boot of Josef Martinez. Miguel Almiron is an assassin as well, having assisted nine and scored eight of his own. That pair has started every single game for the Five Stripes, which is a blessing TFC fans would be jealous of.
There’s a great supporting cast around those two, as well. Julian Gressel, of course, is a young phenom. Hector Villalba can make noise in attack. Michael Parkhurst has been very steady commanding the backline.
There are holes in Atlanta’s lineup, as with any team, but they’re not huge ones. The defence can be a little unconvincing at times, aside from Parkhurst, especially since they have a few defenders out with injury at the moment. They’ll also be missing first-choice right back Franco Escobar due to yellow card accumulation.
I’m not a huge fan of 33-year-old Brad Guzan in goal. Plus, this week, Atlanta will be missing their teenage Argentine starlet Ezequiel Barco, who the club suspended for an off-field incident.
The Reds have never lost to Atlanta (in two games, though).
Is this where it really starts? Is this where TFC’s glimmer of hope goes to die?
Team news: injuries & suspensions
Toronto FC: Drew Moor is the only player confirmed to be out for this game. Auro is the other name listed on TFC’s injury report, but even he could make an appearance for this one. That’s a breath of fresh air, isn’t it?
Atlanta United: Defenders Greg Garza (shoulder), Sal Zizzo (knee), and Mikey Ambrose (knee) are ruled out, as is midfielder Darlington Nagbe (adductor). Franco Escobar and Ezequiel Barco are both suspended.
How to watch
Match date/time: Saturday, August 4, 4 p.m. ET
TV channel: TSN 4 (Canada), ESPN (USA)
Live stream: TSN GO (Canada), ESPN+ (USA)
Radio: TSN 1050 (Toronto)
Bench: Irwin, Hagglund, Telfer, Bakero, Delgado, Fraser, Ricketts