Victor Vazquez

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

A(nother) Giovinco free kick helps TFC to 1st leg (video)

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The match in 100 words (or less): New York Red Bulls have the steel and experience to trouble most teams in MLS, and weren’t rattled when Victor Vazquez helped the visiting Reds to a 1-0 lead. An unfortunate but very legit penalty against Drew Moor sent the defender to the sidelines injured and RBNY to halftime level. The Red Bulls very much had the run of play until Felipe fouled Sebastian Giovinco about 25 yards away from goal. At this point, we can just leave that sentence there and know you know the score went to 2-1. The Supporters’ Shield winners now have two away goals heading back to Toronto for the second leg.

The moments that mattered

8′ — Vazquez gets the favorites an away goal — Clumsy defending from the Red Bulls allowed Jozy Altidore to the right flank, and the American striker walked around Damien Perrinelle before crossing into the six. Red Bulls backstop Luis Robles parried it back into the 18, and Victor Vazquez had ages to line up his shot. He did not mess up.

Sacha Kljestan had a chance at the other end, but Toronto resumed control. Marky Delgado headed a shot off the cross bar in the 36th minute.

45+1′ — BWP goes down under Moor challenge — Wright-Phillips took the ball off Delgado on the edge of the 18, and then hit the deck when he caught Drew Moor off guard with a short touch. Daniel Royer stepped up and cruised his effort down the middle.

All game long’ — Bono stands up to the task at hand — The penalty, halftime break, and injuries to Drew Moor and Victor Vazquez, seemed to shake up TFC. Fortunately for the Reds, goalkeeper Alex Bono was up for the call.

74′ – Giovinco free kick — Some time this summer, our own Andy Edwards and I had a discussion about how Giovinco free kicks from a certain area are either free throws or penalty kicks. Either way, boom.

Man of the Match: Plenty had arguments, including Vazquez, Giovinco, Wright-Phillips, and Bono. We’ll go with the free kick man, and let this stat be our tiebreaker.

MLS Snapshot: TFC outlast RBNY, claim first Supporters’ Shield

Photo credit: Toronto FC / @torontofc
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The game in 100 words (or less): At long last — after eight years without ever qualifying for the playoffs, and 10 without a major MLS trophy to show for all their heartache — Toronto FC are 2017 Supporters’ Shield winners.

Greg Vanney’s side limped to the finish line this week and last, but they got there in the end, with two games to spare. The Reds completed one of the best regular seasons in league history on Saturday, narrowly outlasting the New York Red Bulls, 3-2, to win — and lift — the Shield in front of their home fans. They did so without the service of Sebastian Giovinco, who’s now missed four straight games with what the club has called “lower-body tightness.” Justin Morrow wound up the unlikeliest scorer of a hat trick to clinch a trophy, bagging goals five minutes apart not long before halftime, setting up MLS assist king (16) Victor Vazquez to score the game- and Shield-winning goal from the penalty spot just 10 minutes before full-time.

[ MORE: SKC, VAN face off for West supremacy; HOU still chasing playoffs ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

32′ — Morrow cleans up a mess in front of goal for 1-0 — Victor Vazquez played the long diagonal to Jozy Altidore, who headed the ball back across the face of goal and into the danger zone. No one in blue dealt with it, and Morrow was the quickest to react.

37′ — Morrow pokes another one home, and it’s 2-0 — Michael Bradley’s shot was blocked and deflected t0 — you guessed it — Morrow, with nothing in between him and goalkeeper Luis Robles. Decent composure in front of goal for a full back.

39′ — Veron hits right back, brings RBNY to 2-1 — slots past Bono after Tyler Adams’ inch-perfect ball plays him behind the backline.

77′ — Royer converts from the spot after Veron gets taken down — Drew Moor slid clear through Veron inside the penalty area to give away a largely needless penalty. Royer sent Bono one way and dinked the ball the other.

80′ — Vazquez converts one of his own after Altidore goes down — Aaron Long was all over Jozy Altidore who, big as he might be, had to go down under that much contact — penalty rightly given. Vazquez made it look easy.

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

Man of the match: Justin Morrow

Goalscorers: Morrow (32′, 37′, 90+1′), Veron (39′), Royer (77′ – PK), Vazquez (80′ – PK)

Shield favorites Toronto FC find a new way to rout in LA (video)

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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At the risk of continuing the neutrals’ love fest with Toronto FC, the Reds found a new way to impress on Sunday.

Greg Vanney left Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore at home for Saturday night’s match in Carson against the LA Galaxy, a risky proposition for any team given the propensity for away teams to lose in Major League Soccer.

[ MLS: Coverage | Standings | Stats ]

Even keeping in mind that LA is terrible at home this season — the Galaxy are one of only two teams with a sub .500 record at home — Toronto improved its league-best record to 18W-3L-8T with a 4-0 trouncing of Sigi Schmid’s side.

Tosaint Ricketts scored twice, while Drew Moor and Victor Vazquez also bagged goals for the Reds in running 11 points clear of New York City FC in the Supporters’ Shield standings. TFC would have to put forth a pure and unfettered collapse in order to miss out on its first one.

Vazquez added an assist, and goalkeeper Alex Bono also posted a helper on the final goal of the rout. Additionally, right wing back Steven Beitashour also missed out as Nicolas Hasler assisted on the second goal in his stead.

MLS Snapshots: TFC’s lead restored to 9 as NYCFC, CHI falter

Photo credit: Toronto FC / @torontofc
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Toronto FC 4-0 San Jose Earthquakes

The game in 100 words (or less): TFC have taken all the excitement out of the final days and weeks of the regular season… with two months of the regular season still to go. Saturday’s 4-0 victory, their fifth straight win, over San Jose not only sent a(nother) clear message to the rest of the league that 1) they’re hellbent on MLS Cup vengeance, and 2) they might just be the best team in league history, but also re-established Greg Vanney’s side’s nine-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and in the Supporters’ Shield race (with thanks to results elsewhere — see below). Jozy Altidore bagged a pair of second-half goal, doubling and tripling the lead established by league-leading assist man Victor Vazquez. Jonathan Osorio competed the scoring with TFC’s third in 21 minutes to start the second half. Sebastian Giovinco left the contest at halftime with tightness in his quad.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

26′ — Vazquez fills an empty net after Tarbell’s blunder — Andrew Tarbell made every effort imaginable in an attempt to get a touch on Steven Beitashour’s cross, but the second-year ‘keeper only wound up looking a fool as Vazquez bagged his sixth goal of the season (to go with 14 assists).

48′ — Altidore slots home for 2-0 — Goals don’t come much easier than this one, for which all Altidore had to do was not send his shot 20 rows into the stands, and he’d make it an even dozen on the season. (Scratch that earlier note — 15 assists for Vazquez)

64′ — Altidore heads past Tarbell for 3-0 — So it’s a baker’s dozen for Altidore, and four goals in TFC’s last three games.

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

Man of the match: Victor Vazquez

Goalscorers: Vazquez (26′), Altidore (48′, 64′), Osorio (66′)


New York City FC 0-1 Portland Timbers

The game in 100 words (or less): Three short days after cutting TFC’s lead to six points, NYCFC crashed and burned their own Shield dreams as they lost at Yankee Stadium for just the second time all season, falling to Portland, 1-0. Diego Valeri scored the game’s only goal and made a bit of history in the process (see below). The victory pushes Caleb Porter’s side two points clear of the Seattle Sounders for the Western Conference’s top spot (though Seattle now have two games in hand). Portland become the first West side to reach a dozen wins on the season, and extend their current unbeaten run to four games (three wins). TFC are the only side to beat Portland in the Timbers’ last eight games.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three moments that mattered

44′ — Valeri hammers past Johnson for 1-0 — No one pressured Valeri and he fired past Sean Johnson to give himself a goal in seven straight games, which ties the Argentine for the all-time record in MLS history.

47′ — Brilliant nearly scores from his stomach — Frederic Brilliant so nearly scored the weirdest goal of the 2017 season, a pool-ball tap-in from his belly, but the Frenchman couldn’t quite hit the corner pocket.

84′ — Johnson makes a spectacular save to keep NYCFC in it — This is just absolutely ridiculous from Johnson, who’ll very likely ride this one to Save of the Year glory.

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Man of the match: Diego Valeri

Goalscorers: Valeri (44′)


Chicago Fire 1-1 New York Red Bulls

The game in 100 words (or less): Chicago’s tailspin might very well be over, but Veljko Paunovic’s side still dropped a pair of points at home on Saturday, in a 1-1 draw with New York. After putting a four-game losing skid to bed last weekend, Chicago were made to scrap their way to a point against a side four points (and two spot) below them in the East. Now 14 points back of TFC (they were the only side within three of the Reds a month and a half ago) and five back of NYCFC for second, the dreaded knockout round is looking a likelier destination everyday for Chicago. Two positives for Chicago: a loss would have meant just one point stood between themselves and New York (and three from falling out of the top-four, thus the right to host the knockout round game), and Nemanja Nikolic scored his first goal since July 1, a stretch of 10 games without the Hungarian finding the back of the net.

[ MORE: MLS Power Rankings — Week 26 | Weekend preview ]

Three Two moments that mattered

8′ — BWP’s in the right place at the right time, and it’s 1-0 — That describes, what, roughly 80 percent of BWP’s goal in MLS. That’s not a slight on the Englishman, because always popping up in the right spot is 99 percent skill and 1 percent luck.

66′ — Nikolic breaks his drought, makes it 1-1 — Nikolic gets the goal, but Michael de Leeuw should get all the attention for this delicate touch. As the ball came falling out of the sky, the Dutchman so carefully laid it across the face of goal and gifted Nikolic a chance he couldn’t miss.

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

Man of the match: Sacha Kljestan

Goalscorers: Wright-Phillips (8′), Nikolic (66′)

MLS Snapshot: Shield, Cup favorites TFC torch Timbers, 4-1

Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): Very rarely is a team in MLS capable of running away from the rest of the field — it’s a league designed to create parity, after all — but this Toronto FC side looks as if they intend to smash that very ideal. Greg Vanney’s side thrashed the Portland Timbers, 4-1, on Saturday to go six points clear (for the time being) in the Supporters’ Shield race and announce themselves as favorites for MLS Cup 2017, yet again. Sebastian Giovinco tallied only an assist on the day, while Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley neither scored nor assisted themselves, yet TFC put four (of six shots on target) into the back of the net and extended their unbeaten run to six games. Going back even further, TFC have only lost twice in their last 18 games.

[ MORE: Assessing the top moves of the MLS summer transfer ]

Three moments that mattered

58′ — Morrow beats Attinella near post for 1-0 — Alvas Powell has had… well, a rough season, to say the least. To be fair to Powell, though, he’s far from the only one struggling along that backline.

72′ — Vazquez turns home a cross for 2-0 — When TFC are on, they make it look really, really easy.

76′ — Morrow plays the poacher, makes it 3-0 — As I said about other Portland defenders struggling…

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Man of the match: Justin Morrow

Goalscorers: Morrow (58′, 76′), Vazquez (72′), Delgado (87′), Valeri (89′)