The first game of MLS’ twenty-first season was not much of a spectacle for 80 minutes. MLS fans would have better spent their time watching the goal fest that was NYCFC’s 4-3 win at Chicago, or the red card fueled but comeback of Orlando and RSL’s 2-2 draw. The TorontoFC-NYRB match wasn’t boring, with both teams vying in a strong contest for three points, but it lacked something to make the scoreboard change till late in the game with Toronto finishing 2-0.
That happened when Kemar Lawrence took down rookie Tsubasa Endoh in the eighty-second minute, and once last year’s MVP Sebastian Giovinco stepped at the spot and shot it past the reigning Goalkeeper of the Year in Luis Robles, the game was in Toronto’s control.
“We got to see today why Giovinco was last year’s MVP,” Robles told reporters at a press conference after the match. Clearly, the Atomic Ant had picked up from where he left off five months earlier. Even before the Canadians took control, the match leaned towards the home side’s direction, as they dominated possession, 62% to Toronto’s 38%. As the Red Bulls got close to Clint Irwin’s goal on multiple occasions, their opponents from the north kept their defensive hold and waited patiently. Finally, their chance came with the penalty call, followed by Marco Delgado’s 90th minute goal to lock up three points for Toronto.
“It went to plan,” Irwin told his team’s media outlets. “We wanted to frustrate them and take our chances when we got them,” he added. These were a very important three points for Toronto as they begin an eight match stretch of away games while their home of BMO Field gets some updates.
Toronto captain Michael Bradley noted that it was a tough victory, telling Toronto’s media team that the three points were coming against “one of the best teams in the league.” If anything, this result shows that this year’s Toronto FC is one to take seriously. Fresh off their first-ever playoff match, the team added league veterans in Irwin, Steven Beitashour, and Drew Moor, all reliable defensive players for a team who leaked goals in past years. They also bolstered their attack through the SuperDraft with Endoh, who clearly made a difference in clinching the win for the Reds.
Is it still early? Sure. After all, the season Toronto made their “big bloody deal” by signing Jermain Defoe, they got an away win in Seattle to open the season, and then missed out on the playoffs by the time October rolled around. But with only one game under their belts and three points to their name, we can’t write them off just yet.
To the Red Bulls’ credit, they were strong, but lacked in the final third. But head coach Jesse Marsch doesn’t see the need for a total restructuring before their trip to Montreal next week. “Today’s result doesn’t change my opinion of anything. We have a good group,” Marsch shared at the post match press conference. The Red Bulls snapped their run of 23 straight regular season matches without being shut out, but it is early for one of the highest scoring teams in MLS’ recent history. Designated Player Gonzalo Veron has had a bright preseason after signing for the team last summer, and though he couldn’t participate in today’s match due to injury, he’ll be back in a matter of weeks.
There are still 2970 minutes left to play in the 2016 MLS regular season, and so there’s only so much to make of these first 90 minutes. But there are positives to take for both teams and a lot still to happen.