Toronto FC 2, New York Red Bulls 1 | MLS Match Recap

TORONTO – After eight fruitless seasons, the long wait is over.

Toronto FC booked their place in the 2015 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Wednesday night with a 2-1 win over New York Red Bulls at BMO Field, highlighted by a masterful individual effort on what would be the game-winning goal from Sebastian Giovinco.

Herculez Gomez, starting up top with TFC’s three international stars Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore not in the starting XI, opened the scoring with his first goal for his new club. And after Giovinco’s strike put TFC up 2-0 late in the second half, Sean Wright-Phillips made it interesting in the final moments with the Red Bulls’ only goal of the night.

It was a match heavy with implication: Toronto could clinch their first-ever playoff-appearance with a single point, while New York needed only a draw to lock up first in the Eastern Conference and bolster their likelihood of a second Supporters’ Shield in the last three seasons.

With so much on the line, the opening half was cagey, neither side able to craft any true chances. 

The first half was marked by a strange moment when Altidore was red-carded while sitting on the bench for foul and abusive language directed at the fourth official.

Toronto saw their complement decreased further in the 42nd minute when Damien Perquis went down with an apparent hamstring concern following a high-booted challenge between himself and Gonzalo Veron. The center back limped off, to be replaced by Ahmed Kantari.

The breakthrough would come for the hosts in the 51st minute when Jackson tore up the right-flank, flinging a ball into the area. RBNY’s Ronald Zubar appeared to be in position to clear, but whiffed, slipping in the process, allowing the ball to fall for Gomez, who beat Luis Robles with a calm right-footed touch.

New York sought to rally in the final half-hour, pressuring Toronto and bringing on reinforcements, including Lloyd Sam and Wright-Phillips. TFC countered by subbing on Giovinco, who had just arrived from Italian national team duty earlier that afternoon.

Giovinco would take advantage of that forward lean from New York in the 78th minute with a scintillating run. He out-muscled one defender and pushed past another before cutting to the outside left past two more to finally send a left-footed blast across Robles to give TFC some insurance.

Benoit Cheyrou nearly made it three with a right-footed blast in the 85th minute, but Robles made a miraculous save, setting the table for a tense finish. 

Wright-Phillips pulled the visitors back within one in the 86th minute, beating Chris Konopka at the near post with a low drive from the left corner of the box.

It forced Toronto and their long-suffering fans, who have never experienced the postseason since the team's inception in 2007, to endure a lengthy, six-minute spell of stoppage time before they could celebrate the achievement in earnest. But TFC held on for the result to spark a raucous celebration.

Both teams return to action this weekend. Toronto end their five-match home stretch and travel to face Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, while New York return home for an encounter with Philadelphia Union on Sunday.