Vanney: Toronto not yet ready "to hand the mantle" of best team to Atlanta

ATLANTA – Defending MLS Cup champions Toronto FC were not quite ready to let upstart Atlanta United become known as the best team in MLS.  

“Everybody wants to hand the mantle over to Atlanta, but we’re not ready to give anything up,” said Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney. “That’s what I felt like the script was today, it was supposed to be Atlanta’s day, and it wasn’t, so we’ll take it.”

The Reds were able to gut out a critically important point in injury time with a 2-2 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which incidentally is the third time these two teams have met and finished with the same result. Atlanta United remain atop the Supporters’ Shield standings, while the defending champs have earned seven points in their last three games, keeping them in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race after a miserable start to 2018.

It really should have been Atlanta United’s day, at least on paper. Atlanta had 22 shots on the night to Toronto’s five, and Toronto only mustered two shots on goal for the night, both of which they converted.

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“Overall, the performance was good against a very good Toronto team,” said Atlanta captain Michael Parkhurst. “They’re position is not indicative of the team that we played today.” 

“Everyone knows Atlanta’s one of the tougher places to play in the league,” said TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono. “For us to grind out a 2-2, also coming from behind to get that second goal, says a lot about our character, says a lot about how far we’ve come. Not a lot of people would have said a couple months ago that we would have come out 2-2.”

Atlanta United felt they dominated on the night and came away frustrated. It’s not the first time they’ve dropped points late in matches this year. 

“We’ve lost seven points this season in the last five minutes or so of games – Dallas, New England, and today,” Atlanta manager Tata Martino said through a translator.  

Martino thought his players should have done what other teams have done to them – insure a lead by taking their time on throw-ins, substitutions, and other stoppages of play to milk seconds off the clock.

“What some other teams do, especially when they come here, once they’re in a favorable result for them, they start to slow the game down,” he said. “They have the delays. They have the experience, and they know how to slow a game down.”

“We’ll take a point,” said Vanney. “At the end of the day, the guys worked hard, they battled to the end. The energy, the work, the belief, the commitment on the day was amazing.”