Alejandro Pozuelo

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Toronto FC boosts playoff chances with draw at leaders NYCFC

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Despite missing a second-half penalty that would have theoretically given them all three points, Toronto FC pulled out a valuable road draw at NYCFC as the score finished level 1-1.

The draw was a fair result, as both sides saw some luck. NYCFC’s goal came just six minutes into the game as Alexandru Mitrita scored a fabulous free-kick from a tough angle straightaway outside the box. Toronto scored just before halftime as Alejandro Pozuelo hit from the penalty spot.

[ MORE: Mitrita scores spectacular free-kick ]

The second half was eventful despite no goals being scored. Pozuelo failed to bag his brace as he again stepped up to the spot, but Sean Johnson was on hand to produce a stunning save as he dove to his left, reaching up and back with his hand to tip the ball away.

Toronto was lucky not to concede at the death as Chris Mavinga whacked Valentin Castellanos right in the face with an outstretched arm while battling for a loose ball in the box, bloodying the NYCFC attacker’s nose. Incredulously, Castellanos was called for a foul just seconds before as he allegedly dragged back Omar Gonzalez despite hardly any contact. Mavinga was not penalized for the obvious contact, and VAR somehow did not flag the incident.

The point pushed Toronto FC up to 42 on the season, moving them to fourth in the Eastern Conference and five points above the playoff cut line with four matches remaining, a valuable distance with the other three playoff teams all within three points. NYCFC, meanwhile, will be disappointed in the dropped points but also they move three points clear of second-placed Philadelphia and six clear of Atlanta United.

2019 MLS Power Rankings, Vol. I

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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We are bringing a bit of science to our Major League Soccer power rankings this year, but only a bit.

While dubious items like momentum and look will still play a role in where the MLS sides arrive in our rankings, we’re going to consider some items rather unique to the league:

  1. Away record – The league is infamous for difficulty to win across the country
  2. Defense – MLS’ goals-per-game rate of 3+ makes it one of the most offense-forward leagues in the world.
  3. Schedule congestion – Are you playing twice when others around you are barely breaking a sweat?

So with all teams providing us six-matches or more for sample size, it’s time we mix it up with our first MLSPRs of 2019.

24. Colorado Rapids — Twenty-three goals allowed in eight matches. 0-2-2 at home, 0-4 away. The clear No. 24.

23. New York Red Bulls — Big changes coming to Red Bull Arena?

22. New England Revolution — There isn’t an impressive enough win to overshadow losses to Cincinnati and Atlanta.

21. Atlanta United — It’s messy, real messy, in the post-Almiron and Tata era.

Frank De Boer (Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images)

20. Vancouver Whitecaps — Struggles were expected under a new coach with a big roster flip, so patience should be in long supply especially considering the recent defeat of LAFC (which included a blanking of Carlos Vela). Also worth noting the ‘Caps drew Seattle.

19. Portland Timbers — Still yet to play at home, so getting the benefit of the doubt from us despite a 1-5-1 start.

18. San Jose Earthquakes — Two wins in three could signify an early turned corner.

17. NYCFC — With five draws, are you the pessimist who says, “Only one win,” or the optimist who counters, “Only one loss?”

16. FC Cincinnati — Not quite the tire fire expected by those doubting the acumen of FCC’s lineup. The hope has to be that consistency will come with familiarity.

15. Chicago Fire — Unbeaten in four with NYCFC/Montreal litmus tests next.

14. Minnesota United — Three away wins already and have played just once at home.

13. Orlando City SC — Nani putting together some big performances, but no signature win yet.

12. Real Salt Lake — Streaky side ends four-match losing run by beating Orlando and Cincinnati.

11. Columbus Crew — The defensive record is very impressive under new coach Caleb Porter with just eight goals conceded in eight games. They’ve also only scored eight in a firepower-driven league.

Even on the doorstep, goals have been scarce for Columbus (Eric Albrecht/The Columbus Dispatch via AP)

10. Montreal Impact — The 3-0 loss to Philly stings.

9. Philadelphia Union — The only loss in six is courtesy a cross-country trip to face Zlatan and The Galaxy, which is also a good name for a new band. They could tour with Jem.

8. Sporting KC — We’re here to proffer this long, CONCACAF Champions League-congestion considered leash to Peter Vermes. He’s earned it.

7. DC United — Even in MLS, we didn’t think we’d see an early 1W-2L-1T stretch, albeit with Rooney taking a red and sitting one out.

6. FC Dallas — Excited for the first Texas Derby in two weeks time.

5. Houston Dynamo — First loss of the season comes courtesy a trip to the Galaxy. Forgivable.

4. Toronto FC — Pozuelo is the truth.

3. Seattle Sounders — Carlos Vela at home is understandably where their undefeated season went for death.

2. LA Galaxy — Have allowed two goals in their last four matches, and that’s with new signing Giancarlo Gonzalez only making a token appearance.

1. LAFC — Bob Bradley doesn’t relent, having ridden Carlos Vela to wins of 4-1, 5-0, 4-0, and 4-1 (again) already this season.

New DP Pozuelo lights up scoreboard in Toronto FC blowout of NYCFC

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, a maxim totally fine by Alejandro Pozuelo.

The 27-year-old Spanish forward debuted with style for Toronto FC on Friday, setting up Jozy Altidore for an opening goal before scoring a panenka of the most chill order and then chipping Sean Johnson to double down on his rough treatment of the USMNT goalkeeper.

[ MORE: Rashford wants new Man Utd deal ]

TFC beat New York City FC 4-0 at BMO Field, with its $10 million man making a debut as spectacular as possible. Jay Chapman scored the Reds’ fourth goal, and Jonathan Osorio continued his fine form with two assists.

Following this assist to Altidore with a dribble and cut back, Pozuelo stepped to the spot to score his second coolest goal of the night.

So how was that second coolest?

Well, uh… because look at this chip.

WATCH: Pozuelo’s sweet assist to Altidore on Toronto FC debut

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto FC had the ball in the goal three times before it counted on the scoreboard once.

New signing Alejandro Pozuelo, the hopeful star replacement for Sebastian Giovinco, assisted Jozy Altidore for the marker with a slick pass in the 30th minute.

[ MORE: Rashford wants new Man Utd deal ]

Justin Morrow and Nick DeLeon had goals pulled back for offside before Altidore snapped his first touch goal home in the 30th minute.

Pozuelo was a $10 million buy from Genk this winter, a purchase that took plenty of time due to a protracted dispute between the Reds, Pozuelo, and his Belgian club.

The 27-year-old Spaniard racked up seven goals and 18 assists between the Jupiler Pro League, Belgian Cup, and Europa League this season. He previously spent time at Swansea City, Real Betis, and Rayo Vallecano. Pozuelo has three Premier League assists from his time in Wales.

Also, just look at Jozy Altidore’s arms. Does he curl other players in his spare time?