April 22nd, 2024

Toronto FC’s unbeaten run comes to an end in 2-1 loss at New York City FC

By The Canadian Press on March 16, 2024.

Toronto FC's Federico Bernardeschi gestures during MLS action against Charlotte FC in Toronto, Saturday, March 9, 2024. Unbeaten Toronto FC, nursing an injury list that contains as many as seven starters, looks to keep its hot start to the MLS season going when it visits winless New York City FC. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

NEW YORK – Kevin O’Toole’s first MLS goal lifted New York City FC to a 2-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, ending TFC’s unbeaten run to start the season at three games.

O’Toole put NYCFC (1-3-0) ahead with a stylish header in the 65th minute off a wonderful cross from the outside of Julian Fernandez’s boot, with the Toronto defence slow to respond. It was the first time Toronto had been behind this season.

Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, with his first MLS goal, scored for Toronto (2-1-1), which got another fine performance from stand-in goalkeeper Luka Gavran but managed few chances on the New York goal.

Santi Rodriguez also scored for NYCFC, which had midfielder Keaton Parks sent off in the 68th minute for a nasty challenge on substitute Kobe Franklin that earned a straight red after video review. Toronto upped its attack in an unsuccessful bid to get a tying goal in a game that saw almost 12 minutes of second-half stoppage time.

While Toronto went ahead early, NYCFC came on strong as the first half wore on, tying it at 1-1 and putting the visitors under pressure at Yankee Stadium. The New Yorkers outshot Toronto 9-6 (6-2 in shots on target) in the first half, had six corners to TFC’s two and had 68.2 per cent possession.

A fine long ball from Alonso Coello found the 19-year-old Marshall-Rutty steaming toward the penalty box in the seventh minute. Two good touches later, the wingback rounded goalkeeper Matt Freese and poked the ball home. The goal came in Marshall-Rutty’s first start this season and 54th career league appearance.

Rodriguez, a young designated player from Uruguay, tied it up in the 24th minute with a spectacular free kick, bending the ball over the wall and into the top corner. Centre back Kevin Long conceded the foul, chopping down Algerian forward Mounsef Bakrar.

It was the first goal conceded by Toronto this season, ending a 293-minute shutout streak.

Toronto was missing injured captain Jonathan Osorio (hip), goalkeeper Sean Johnson (hamstring), defenders Richie Laryea (hamstring), Nicksoen Gomis (wrist) and Raul Petretta (groin), and midfielder Brandon Servania (knee).

There was no immediate word from the Canada camp whether Osorio was still headed to the national team for the arch 23 Copa America qualifying playoff against Trinidad and Tobago.

Long and midfielder Deybi Flores both started despite being listed as questionable while forward Deandre Kerr, who missed the first three games with a calf issue, came off the bench in the dying minutes.

Italian star Lorenzo Insigne captained the team in Osorio’s absence with Sigurd Rosted slotting into the backline and Prince Owusu starting up front. There was a first TFC start for former Newcastle midfielder Matty Longstaff, who gave way to Franklin at halftime.

Insigne, who managed just four goals in 20 league appearances last year, had accounted for all of Toronto’s offence in its first three games, with two goals – both honoured as the MLS goal of the week.

Insigne tried his luck early Saturday, looking to chip Freese from distance in the third minute. Soon after, fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi’s sliding challenge nipped an NYCFC threat at the other end.

Rodriguez came close for New York in the 18th minute, but he slid his shot just wide after being put behind the defence by Thiago Martins’ long ball. Two minutes later, a diving Gavran pushed away a Fernandez shot.

Gavran got a hand to a hard Hannes Wolf shot in the 39th minute. And the Toronto’ keeper made a fine leg save to deny Parks in first-half stoppage time.

Gavran stopped Bakrar from close range in the 53rd minute to end another NYCFC flurry.

Tyrese Spicer, the top pick in the 20204 MLS SuperDraft, came on in the 75th minute to make his Toronto debut. And he set fellow substitute Ayo Akinola with a fine curling ball minutes later, only to see the ensuing shot miss the target

New York had stumbled coming out of the gate, with losses at Charlotte FC (1-0) and St Louis City SC (2-0) and, last time out, to visiting Portland (2-1) in a game that saw it concede in the 85th and 97th minute.

Toronto opened with a scoreless draw at FC Cincinnati before winning 1-0 at New England and 1-0 over Charlotte FC in last Saturday’s home opener at BMO Field. But its past record at NYCFC was 1-4-5.

Toronto hosts Atlanta United next Saturday, while NYCFC visits FC Cincinnati.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 16, 2024.

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