Toronto FC are back in the Eastern Conference Final, after defeating New York City FC 2-1 in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals at Citi Field on Wednesday.
TFC, the No. 4 seed in the East, upset NYCFC, the top seed, and will play their third Eastern Conference Final in the last four seasons. NYCFC's impressive campaign will end after just one playoff game in 2019, a product of the new single-elimination format in the postseason.
Both teams entered the game missing their top strikers in their respective XIs, Jozy Altidore was completely unavailable for the night due to injury, while Heber joined the fray for NYCFC at the hour mark.
Toronto dominated the first half, but their six-to-one edge in shots led to no goals, with Sean Johnson making four saves for NYCFC in the opening 45. TFC finally got the edge just after the break, as a poor header in his own box by Maxime Chanot produced a gilt-edged opportunity, Alejandro Pozuelo pouncing on the looping headed backpass and beating Johnson with ease.
But NYCFC awakened after the gaffe, and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi tied the game in the 69th minute with a one-timer off a looping cross from MLS assist king Maxi Moralez. But that momentum came to a crashing halt, when in the dying minutes Ronald Matarrita brought down Richie Laryea in NYCFC's box, and Pozuelo hit a panenka penalty to put TFC in front late.
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- 47' – TOR – Alejandro Pozuelo | WATCH
- 69' – NYC – Ismael Tajouri-Shradi | WATCH
- 90' – TOR – Alejandro Pozuelo (PK) | WATCH
$6,000 was contributed to the Audi Goals Drive Progress fund.
- THE BIG PICTURE: Both teams controlled parts of the game, and the result being decided by a penalty is perhaps a bit cruel to NYCFC, but TFC were on balance the better team overall. Their tired legs after playing 120 minutes to down D.C. United bested NYCFC, who spent most of the game out of rhythm, likely due to the bye they enjoyed as the top seed.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The penalty decided it, but the gaffe that led to Toronto's opener was definitely the defining moment of this game.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Clearly, Pozuelo stepped up in a big way, especially with Altidore out, and if the Spaniard continues to play this well TFC could be lifting a trophy on Nov. 10.
- NYC: End of season
- TOR: Oct. 30 vs. TBD (FS1, FOX Deportes, TSN, TVAS) | Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Final