BRONX, N.Y. – It was a tale of two superstars on Sunday afternoon in the Big Apple, as David Villa and Sebastian Giovinco put on a show in a record-setting, eight-goal thriller between New York City FC and Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium.
Giovinco scored a first-half hat trick within a nine-minute span, tied for the third fastest in MLS history, and assisted on another while generally terrorizing NYCFC defenders throughout the game. Villa added two goals of his own, making it eight in his last seven games for the NYCFC star.
But it was Patrick Mullins who played the hero for the home side, scoring a late equalizer in an entertaining 4-4 draw.
Devoid of US national team teammates Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, Giovinco put on a master-class in finishing in the first half, leading Toronto to a much-needed result after the team dropped its last two games without scoring a goal. The point moves TFC into a four-team tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points from 17 games.
Villa, who was forced to wait another week for new teammate Frank Lampard’s debut after the midfielder picked up a calf strain in training during the week, proved he’s more than capable of continuing to lead the expansion franchise in the meantime, giving NYCFC another result to continue their best run of form after coming into the game with four wins in their previous five matches. NYCFC move into a tie for eight place in the East, but they trail the four-team pack by just three points.
Adding to the topsy-turvy nature of the game that saw multiple lead changes, referee Ted Unkel issued an MLS-record four penalties, only two of which were converted.
New York City started brightest, going up 2-0 after 30 minutes. Villa opened the scoring in the 17th minute, curling a free kick inside the near post from 20 yards.
Toronto had a chance to level the score seconds later, when Unkel pointed to the spot for the first time, adjudging NYCFC midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy of dragging down Toronto’s Benoit Cheyrou in the box.
Giovinco’s penalty clanged off the base of the right post, however, and it appeared that it wouldn't be Toronto’s day when New York City was awarded their first penalty in the 28th minute when Toronto defender Damien Perquis clanged into NYCFC midfielder Thomas McNamara after he was sent in on goal by a well-weighted scooped pass by Ballouchy.
Though Villa’s PK was saved by Toronto goalkeeper Chris Konopka, Villa’s strike partner Mullins was first to the rebound and his shot deflected off a backtracking Perquis for an own goal to double New York’s advantage.
But from there, Giovinco took over, turning the first half upside down.
New York’s center-back pairing of Watson-Siriboe and Shay Facey struggled mightily to deal with the runs of Giovinco throughout the first half, and the former Juventus man leveled the score minutes later by slotting home after being put through on goal by a classy back-heel flick by Jackson.
The Italian saved the best for his third goal of the game, expertly chipping an onrushing Saunders from a Robbie Findlay cross after he again got open behind the defense.
And New York got back in it when Unkel whistled for a fourth penalty of the day in the 65th minute when Villa was judged to be dragged down by onrushing Konopka. Villa made no mistake with the finish, leveling the score at 3-3.
Toronto thought they got the winner in the 82nd minute when Giovinco worked his way clear on goal and laid it across to Marky Delgado for the tap in, but New York leveled the match at 4-4 a minute later when Mullins headed home at the far post.
Toronto will return home to play host to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, while New York head to New England to play the struggling Revolution, who have lost five in a row.