Chris Mavinga

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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.

Giovinco free kick highlights Toronto’s CCL semi-clinching draw (video)

Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Sebastian Giovinco forced an own goal and netted a free kick as Toronto FC advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals despite a 3-2 second leg loss to UANL Tigres on Tuesday in Mexico.

Tigres scored a penalty in stoppage time, but the pair of away goals pushed TFC through on a 4-4 aggregate score line.

TFC will play Club America unless Tauro makes amends for a 4-0 deficit after one leg come Wednesday evening.

André-Pierre Gignac scored twice, one the penalty, and Eduardo Vargas also scored for Tigres.

[ MORE: Red Bulls advance past Xolos ]

The heady times started early for Toronto FC, which needed big plays from defender Chris Mavinga and goalkeeper Alex Bono in the first half.

Life got a lot harder for Tigres when Sebastian Giovinco forced an own goal in the 64th minute, though Vargas scored his second goal of the tie to give the hosts hope.

But that so-and-so Giovinco did what he does with his 73rd minute free throw free kick to lift TFC to a two-goal lead with a pair of away goals.

Gignac leveled the tie in the 84th, and then converted a penalty off a Gregory van der Wiel handball in stoppage time, but it was too little, too late for the Liga MX side.