HOUSTON – Toronto FC could smell first place, had it nearly within their grasp.
But the Reds got reckless in their pursuit of the game-winning goal that would've bagged all three points from their visit to the Houston Dynamo on Sunday, and in the end, had to settle for just one point in a 1-1 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium.
A win in rain-soaked Houston could have vaulted TFC above New York City FC and into the top spot in the East. The stars seemed to have aligned for them when Abdoulie Mansally earned a straight red for a foul on Sebastian Giovinco in the final seconds of the first half, but the winner never materialized.
“We had this deep desire to come with three points to be on top of the Eastern Conference, and that force was pulling us towards the goal,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, “and in turn, we ended up giving up far too many counterattacks on the other end.”
However, Toronto fought through plenty of adversity to bag that point. Mark Bloom and Justin Morrow were lost to injury in the first half, with Bloom exiting in the 16th minute before Morrow left in the 41st.
The loss of those two caused a shift in formation that led to further complications. Vanney said he was always going to use the third sub on Jozy Altidore in the second half, as part of the process to move the injury-plagued striker to full match fitness.
“The response there was shift to a diamond, and I thought we were just a little off in terms of our defensive responsibilities,” Vanney said. “I thought that allowed them to find a little bit of space on us and [create] some chances that were not necessarily normal for us.”
Altidore tied the game in the 24th minute off a corner kick, one-timing a right-footed shot into the net. And Toronto had their chances in the second half.
“Being up a man, we want more from the game,” TFC defender Nick Hagglund said. “Any match when you have an advantage like that, we want three points.”
Altidore saw another shot clang off the near post in the 64th minute, and a bid by Tosaint Ricketts was blocked on the goal line late in the game.
The outcome was frustrating for Toronto FC given their man advantage. But with two injuries early and a 24-hour delay from when the game was initially supposed to take place due to severe weather, they went home with heads held high.
“We worked together and came out with a point,” Hagglund said. “Obviously, we want more, but happy with the performance.”