Toronto FC started the 2016 Major League Soccer (MLS) season by shocking the New York Red Bulls with a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena on Sunday.
Italian wizard Sebastian Giovinco pulled out the victory late by converting a penalty and then assisting on the second Reds goal. However, the main star of the match was the defense of Toronto.
TFC faced the defending Supporters’ Shield winners in their own home turf. The Red Bulls' weapons on offense were healthy and looking to start the new season with a victory at home.
New York felt extra confident knowing that history was on their side against the Canadian club. Toronto has never beaten New York at Red Bull Arena. The only time the Reds have defeated New York on the road was in 2008, when NYRB still called Giants Stadium home. Toronto’s record against the Red Bulls on the road is (W-D-L) 1-1-9.
Toronto Has A Defense
In years past, TFC defense eventually crumbled from consistent pressure. However, on Sunday, the Reds stood their ground and did not falter when the Red Bulls came knocking.
The home club did create 11 shots in the match, but only one of them was on target. TFC’s new goalkeeper, Clint Irwin, made the save on the lone strike at goal and kept the home club off the scoreboard. The back line also limited New York to only two corners in the 90 minutes.
However, the Reds were not just stubborn, but were also physical against the Red Bulls. TFC had 18 tackles, drew 12 fouls and completed 24 clearances. Toronto contested every step from opposing NYRB players. Canadian international Will Johnson was seen multiple times chasing down New York players around the pitch.
TFC relentless pressure began to bother NY’s Dax McCarty, Mike Grella, Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips. As every minute passed, their frustration grew; this led to six fouls combined between the four players. Their production on offense suffered, as they only created three shots, and only one of them was placed on target. Kljestan and Wright Phillips failed to register a single attempt on goal – everywhere they went, a Red jersey was close by.
Can't Rule Out Giovinco
The offense of TFC was not doing much, as the home club won the battle of possession easily by 25 percent. However, TFC still managed to create 12 shots and made sure to place their chances on target. The Reds had five of their shots trouble New York’s goalkeeper Luis Robles.
The veteran keeper was able to stop three of them.
As long as Giovinco is on the field and the match is tied, then the Reds are very much alive. In the final eight minutes of the game, the Italian playmaker was able to finally break through.
The 29-year-old star was sprinting down the left hand side of the field with the ball. Before the defenders were able to stop him he sent a cross right into the center of the penalty box.
TFC’s forward Tsubasa Endoh was completing his run into the box when Giovinco’s cross was approaching him. However, before he was able to control the ball, Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence tackled him from behind and the referee blew the whistle for the penalty. Giovinco did not mess around, blasting the ball to the bottom-left-hand corner of the net to give the Reds a 1-0 lead in the 82nd minute.
Red Bull Arena was shocked that TFC had pulled ahead. However, a few minutes later, the Reds officially ruined opening day for New York.
Once again, Giovinco came out, leading a counter attack. Running down the middle of the pitch, just past midfield, he supplied a running Marco Delgado with a ball towards the box. The former U.S. under-20 midfielder took two big strides into the box; Robles was about to come out and challenge Delgado. The 20-year-old substitute reacted quickly and placed the ball to the bottom-left-hand corner to secure the 2-0 victory for TFC in the 91st minute.
The Reds with this victory are currently holding first place in the Eastern Conference with three points and a positive two-goal differential. Toronto can build on this result in their next match, on Sunday against New York City F.C. at Yankee Stadium.
For the Red Bulls, this result has placed them at eighth place with a negative two-goal differential and zero points. However, New York’s manager Jesse Marsch has a lot of time to recover and climb back up the standings. They will be looking to start that process with their next match, on Saturday against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo.