TORONTO – Though there have been some dramatic moments between these two Eastern Conference heavyweights, Wednesday night set a new standard.
Toronto FC and Atlanta United played out a wild one at BMO Field with TFC emerging victorious by a 3-2 scoreline. While there was plenty of drama throughout the match, it paled in comparison to what would occur in second-half stoppage time.
With the score level at 2-2, Alejandro Pozuelo duly converted a penalty kick in the 94th minute, putting TFC ahead as they sought to finally end their eight-match winless skid.
Back up the other end, a ball was flung into the area by Atlanta, prompting shouts for another penalty after it appeared to skim off the arm of Toronto's Nick DeLeon.
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Instead, the trio of whistles that signal the end of the match were blown and fireworks went off. But the players lingered and referee Alan Kelly’s finger went to his ear – the now-familiar international symbol for "play being checked." After a subsequent Video Review conducted at the field-side monitor, a penalty was awarded to Atlanta.
It was the seventh of what was supposed to be two minutes of stoppage time.
“Everybody wants to score a penalty,” Atlanta coach Frank de Boer said. “He made the first one, so why not the second one?”
“It's frustrating,” he continued. “You knew the referee already whistled for the end of the game, so yeah... it's a pity that Pity missed the penalty.”
At moments such as these some words are not suitable, or new ones must be invented.
“I'm not sure I can say all of the words that were going through my mind,” grimaced TFC's Greg Vanney. “'Unfor-lievable,' a word we made up many years ago. 'Unfortunately believable,' which is: The way our season is going, this is another one of those nights.”
That late decision was the fifth penalty kick awarded to the opposition in Toronto's last four matches.
“Fortunately, for the first time in a long time, a play went in our way — a very good player missing and [Westberg] went to that side and makes the goal look a little smaller,” exhaled Vanney. “In the end, we needed them to miss that.”
Not everyone had the stomach to watch that final gambit.
“To be honest, I was really nervous,” Endoh said. “Pozuelo scored a PK and I thought we were going to win and the next thing you know they're calling a penalty at the end. I was the only one sitting on the bench, watching, but not watching.”
Even a veteran goalkeeper like Brad Guzan, who has seen all that the game offers, had to admit the ending was, “a bit chaotic.”
“We had a chance to get a draw. Sometimes you make penalties, sometimes you don’t. It is what it is,” Guzan said. “I’m more frustrated and disappointed in the way we played for 90 minutes because it certainly wasn’t good enough. We knew it was going to be a tough game. When you gift them a goal a minute into the game, you've really got your work cut out.”