Benoit Cheyrou

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Red Bulls 1-1 Toronto FC: TFC’s 6-game winning streak ends in thriller

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HARRISON, N.J. (AP) Benoit Cheyrou scored on a diving header in the 70th minute and Toronto FC salvaged a 1-1 tie with the New York Red Bulls on Friday night, ending the Canadian team’s franchise-record winning streak at six games.

Toronto FC (7-1-5) had three good scoring chances in the final 10 minutes for the first seven-game winning streak in the MLS since the 2012 season. Jozy Altidore‘s penalty kick was blocked by Luis Robles in the 81st minute. On the previous play, Altidore tried to chip the keeper but it went wide and Tosaint Ricketts was knocked down in the penalty area chasing the loose ball.

In the 84th minute, Ricketts controlled a long pass with his chest on a breakaway but his shot hit the crossbar. Then Ricketts appeared to score in the 89th but it was whistled back for an offside call.

New York (5-6-2) snapped a three-game losing streak. In the 38th minute, Sacha Kljestan’s free kick was headed across goal by Fredrik Gulbrandsen and Wright-Phillips finished it with a bicycle kick to open the scoring (WATCH HERE).

MLS Snapshot: Colorado Rapids 1-0 Toronto FC (video)

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The game in 100 words (or less): Playing on the road in MLS is no easy task — what with the extended travel that North America imposes upon teams, at the very least — so it comes as little surprise that Toronto FC, who are halfway through playing their first eight games away from BMO Field, have dropped points left and right since their opening-day victory over the New York Red Bulls. Saturday marked their second defeat in a row as a 10-man Reds side fell to the Colorado Rapids, 1-0. TFC did themselves no favors, of course, with Benoit Cheyrou being sent off inside the first quarter-hour, and TFC never looked like getting anything from the game outside of some near-brilliance from Sebastian Giovinco on a handful of free kicks. The season is only four games old at this point, but the Rapids (maybe only for another hour or two) currently sit third in the Western Conference.

[ MORE: Sacramento to MLS? | Preview the rest of Week 4 ]

Three moments that mattered

13′ — Cheyrou goes elbow-first into Burling’s face, sees red — Cheyrou had a short day’s work Saturday night, managing to be booked twice in the first 13 minutes, two minutes apart. The second of the two was probably worth of a straight red all to itself.

18′ — Solignac slots home after Pappa’s chipped pass — Marco Pappa lifted the softest chipped through ball to springs Luis Solignac behind the TFC defense, and the Argentine put it away for his first goal of the season.

45+1′ & 57′ — Giovinco goes oh so close with a pair of free kicks — The man is magical when it comes to free kicks, but Giovinco came up a combined 12 to 18 inches from knocking in a pair in the 25-to-30-yard range either side of halftime. Even when he doesn’t score, the Atomic Ant is a joy to watch.

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Man of the match: Marco Pappa

Goalscorers: Solignac (18′)

This should finally be the year Toronto FC lives up to the hype

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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From a personal standpoint, I understand keenly why Toronto FC fans feel burnt. As a soccer fan less than 100 miles from BMO Field, splitting TFC season tickets with friends was an easy decision. Major League Soccer so close to home? Why not give it a go?

Know what was an easier decision? Not renewing after a few years of profound disappointment. Despite a great stadium with a better skyline and an unbelievable group of nascent supporters in the Red Patch Boys, TFC was an on-field disaster.

That’s not to say it should be easy for a team created from scratch to thrive in any league, even one as young as Major League Soccer. But we’re talking eight years without playoffs, not a single conference standing finish higher than fifth, in front of a buzzing group of supporters who started to buzz, well, a lot less.

[ MLS: Can San Jose make noise in the West? ]

Toronto FC never had a chance to gel. Nine seasons in, the club has only seen eight players make more than 75 appearances. Only three — Stefan Frei, Jim Brennan and Julian de Guzman — have tempted 100 (Now with Seattle, Frei leads with 96).

How’s this for a sense of history? Sebastian Giovinco’s MVP season last year saw him score 22 goals. That places him second all-time for TFC. Second. All-time.

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) celebrates after scoring on a penalty kick with teammates Jozy Altidore (17), Michael Bradley (4) and Jackson Goncalves (11) during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Philadelphia Union, Saturday, May 2, 2015, in Chester, Pa. Toronto FC won 1-0. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)
(AP Photo/Michael Perez)

This year feels a bit different. For one, there’s continuity in attack. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Giovinco (right) are all back in the fold. The first two can be expected to have much improved second seasons, while Giovinco just needs to whiff the greatness of his first to lift TFC higher in the standings. The Copa America Centenario break won’t help much, but it’ll hurt others, too.

Plus, coach Greg Vanney can change the game plan when Bradley and Altidore are gone. Benoit Cheyrou was very good in the midfield last season, while Toronto-born midfielder and reigning MLS champion Will Johnson is now playing at home and will add even more steel to the middle of the park.

Toronto also took proper steps to firm up their porous defense, which was a laughingstock last season, stung by the loss of captain Steven Caldwell.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

The Reds had some pieces in Damien Perquis, Nick Hagglund and Justin Morrow, the latter a mainstay who has flown under the radar. Now general manager Tim Bezbatchenko has brought in back liners with quantifiable MLS experience. Steven Beitashour arrives from Vancouver, and Drew Moor moved over from Colorado.

Clin Irwin, Colorado Rapids
Irwin

TFC found some steadiness in goal when they picked up Clint Irwin (right) from Colorado, a veteran who can properly tutor 2015 draft pick and USMNT prospect Alex Bono.

With fellow Toronto sides thriving in their respective leagues — the Jays are an AL East contender and the Raptors lead their division — this could be the year TFC finally delivers on expectations. There’s enough depth in the fold to think that, given a relatively healthy campaign, Toronto should be able to place high enough in the East to set itself up for a bye.

There’s plenty to be hopeful, but it’s still cool if you don’t believe it ’til you see it. We’ve learned that much, right?

MLS Snapshot: Toronto FC 0-2 New York City FC (video)

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The game in 100 words (or less): Was it an upset? I mean, come on, this is Major League Soccer. Is any game really an upset, given the parity and up and down nature of the league. That said, New York City FC (now on a three-game winning streak) beating Toronto FC (previously on a three-game winning streak), 2-0 on a pair of David Villa goals, on Saturday night at BMO Field was a pretty big upset. Everything was just starting to come together for TFC, thanks to the brilliance of Sebastian Giovinco and the emergence of countless other role players through the lineup. And then, in true TFC fashion, splat, it all came crashing back down in 90 minutes. Giovinco was kicked, hit and shoved around for all game long (five fouls suffered, but it could have been 10), thus rendered practically useless on Saturday. So, until further notice, that’s the gameplan for the league of the league against TFC.

[ MORE: Previewing the rest of Week 16 ]

Three moments that mattered

8′ — Handball in the box, and Villa converts from the penalty spot — Benoit Cheyrou unnecessarily handled the ball inside the penalty area from an NYCFC corner kick. David Villa sent Chris Konopka to his left and rolled the ball into the other side of the goal.

29′ — Saunders makes a diving save on Giovinco’s free kick — By now we all know what Giovinco can do in dead-ball situations. The Atomic Ant nearly pulled another beauty out of his bag of tricks in the 29th minute, but Josh Saunders made a diving save to keep NYCFC in the lead.

58′ — Villa pokes home his second of the game — With ball-watching going on all over TFC’s defensive third of the field, Mehdi Ballouchy found Villa near the top of the six-yard box, from where he would finish for his second goal of the game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: David Villa — It’s tough to go against anyone who scores two goals in a game that finishes 2-0, thus Villa is man of the match once again. Chances were limited for NYCFC on the night (just eight shots, four on target), but Villa made a pair of them count and three points were his reward.

LINEUPS

Toronto FC: Konopka, Morrow, Zavaleta, Perquis, Morgan (Findley 83′), Cheyrou, Warner (Jackson 77′), Osorio, Bradley, Giovinco, Moore (Altidore 58′)

New York City FC: Saunders, Wingert, Facey, Hernandez, Allen, Grabavoy, Diskerud, Ballouchy (Poku 68′), Villa, McNamara (Alvarez 80′)

Goals: Villa (PK – 8′, 58′)

MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 12

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Week 12 of the 2015 Major League Soccer season is in the books, and just as in Week 11, we were once again reminded that nobody knows anything about MLS. The only thing we know about MLS is that we know nothing about MLS.

That upside-down nature of results is reflected in Andy Edwards’ Week 12 MLS Team of the Week.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s Week 10 MLS coverage | Standings | Stats | Schedule ]

Three Toronto FC players? Two from the Montreal Impact? One from each of the Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids? What is this world?

TFC and the Impact both snatched big home victories over the weekend, thanks to strong performances from the midfield (TFC) and rearguard (Montreal). The Rapids and Union also won in Week 12. In summation, four of the league’s bottom-five teams won over the weekend.

Thoughts? Questions? Agreements? Disagreements? (Of course not.) Leave them in the comments section, as always. I’m not afraid to defend my picks.

[ MORE: 2015 MLS Team of the Week archive ]

MLS Team of the Week — Week 12

Goalkeeper: Evan Bush (Montreal Impact)

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Defenders: Jamison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Fabinho (Philadelphia Union), Lauren Ciman (Montreal Impact)

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Midfielders: Benoit Cheyrou (Toronto FC), Lucas Pittinari (Colorado Rapids), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Luke Mulholland (Real Salt Lake)

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Forwards: Kei Kamara (Columbus Crew SC), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC)

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