May 20th, 2024

New York City FC holds on to defeat Toronto FC 3-2 in ill-tempered MLS match

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 11, 2024.

Toronto FC defender Sigurd Rosted (17) falls over New York City forward Malachi Jones (88) during first half MLS action in Toronto, Saturday, May 11, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – Santi Rodriguez, Malachi Jones and Andres Perea scored and New York City FC held on to defeat Toronto FC 3-2 in an ill-tempered MLS game Saturday, ending TFC’s five-game winning streak across all competitions.

For the 20-year-old Jones, a teammate of Toronto rookie Tyrese Spicer at Lipscomb University, it was his first MLS goal in his first start.

Federico Bernardeschi and substitute Raoul Petretta scored for Toronto, which trailed 2-0 at the break.

Petretta’s goal, a highlight-reel volley in the 89th minute off a Matty Longstaff cross, made it interesting with nine minutes of stoppage time. Bernardeschi was shown a second yellow after the final whistle when he confronted referee Lukasz Szpala.

A melee ensued after the game with players from both sides in a mass scrum. Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson, a former New York player, was in the middle of it – seemingly trying to play peacekeeper.

Bernardeschi will miss Wednesday’s match at Nashville SC, as will Kevin Long. The Toronto centre back was cautioned in the 53rd minute and gets the ban for yellow card accumulation.

Italian star Lorenzo Insigne, returning to action after missing the last eight games in all competitions with a hamstring issue, came off the Toronto bench to applause in the 76th minute.

He almost scored with his first touch, off a Bernardeschi setup, but New York goalkeeper Matt Freese made the save.

New York (5-5-2) then scored the insurance goal with Perea knocking in a Hannes Wolf feed in the 78th minute to make it 3-1.

TFC had chances to add to its goal total earlier but was rebuffed repeatedly by Freese.

Toronto (6-5-1) came into the game in third place in the Eastern Conference, knowing a win would allow it to match its entire points total of last season when it finished last in the league at 4-20-10.

TFC had won 12 of a possible 15 points at home (4-1-0) in league play before Saturday.

There was some niggle in the game with players coming together in the 68th minute after Longstaff, upset at the time an injured New York player was taking to get treatment, looking to grab the NYCFC trainer’s bag and deposit it in touch.

Toronto lost 2-1 at Yankee Stadium when the teams met March 16 with New York midfielder Keaton Parks sent off in the 68th minute for a nasty challenge on Kobe Franklin that earned a straight red after video review.

Toronto started in high gear Saturday but it was the visitors who struck first in an eventful first half.

Rodriguez put New York ahead in the 23rd minute, sending Sean Johnson the wrong way from the penalty spot after Longstaff was called for handball in the box. It was the fifth goal of the season for the Uruguayan designated player.

Longstaff protested that the ball had gone off his chest but referee Lukasz Szpala, after reviewing the play on the pitch-side monitor, disagreed.

New York doubled the lead in the 44th with the Toronto defence found lacking. Wolf drove past Deybi Flores and found Jones racing alone towards the goal with Bernardeschi trying to catch up. He couldn’t and Jones’ shot beat Johnson and bounced in off the post.

Bernardeschi pulled one back in the 55th minute, roofing a rebound after Freese made a spectacular save of a close-range Longstaff shot. It was the Italian’s fourth goal in his last three matches in all competitions.

It was the first away win of the season for NYCFC, which went into weekend play in seventh place in the East. NYCFC’s record away from home last season was a dismal 1-8-8, which still was one victory better than Toronto’s 0-13-4.

The New Yorkers were coming off a 2-0 loss to visiting Colorado that ended a five-game unbeaten run (3-0-2).

Toronto came out with purpose, attacking the visitors with their press on a damp evening at BMO Field.

Captain Jonathan Osorio could have had two goals in the first five minutes. He just missed getting solid contact in front of goal on a feed from Bernardeschi in the third minute and, taking a nifty backheel from Prince Owusu, hit the crossbar in the fifth minute.

At the other end, Johnson had to make a diving save to deny Jones in the 18th minute after a Longstaff giveaway.

Freese made a fine reflex one-handed save to deny Owusu from close quarters in the 38th minute. Toronto came close in first-half stoppage time with Owusu’s header going just wide and Freese stopping Bernardeschi.

Toronto coach John Herdman made seven changes from the side that blanked CS Saint-Laurent 3-0 in a mid-week cup game as he reverted to his more normal league lineup. There were just two changes from the team that beat Dallas 3-1 last Saturday with defender Sigurd Rosted and Longstaff slotting in for Raoul Petretta, who has been dealing with a bone bruise on his foot, and Alonso Coello.

Toronto was without the injured Richie Laryea, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Shane O’Neill and Brandon Servania.

New York was missing Argentine playmaker Maxi Morales, who is recovering from knee surgery, and defender Rio Hope-Gund.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2024.

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