Major League Soccer has seen many teams through the years that have offensive prowess which can entertain fans season after season. Tonight, two of those prolific attacks tried to out-score each other as Toronto FC and Atlanta United FC thrilled both fans and neutrals alike in a pulsating 2-2 draw.
Toronto may come away from this game the more disappointed side as from the 75th minute on, they played against a 10-man Atlanta side but ultimately, the home side could not find the winner they pushed for.
A three goal first half emphasizes the quality on show
The game started off at a fast pace as both teams attacked at will. Sebastian Giovinco had the first chance of the game in the 5th minute when after clawing away at Jozy Altidore's attempt, Atlanta's Alec Kann put the ball right at Giovinco's feet. The striker volleyed the ball well over the crossbar from close range, at a range you would expect for him to finish easily, and Atlanta escaped going down early in the game.
Giovinco was not done yet in trying to open the scoring and his free-kick in the 11th minute almost did so but skipped narrowly wide with no Toronto player able to get onto the end of it.
With all of that early Toronto pressure, it was Atlanta that struck first as in the 15th minute. Playmaker Miguel Almirón fed the ball through for Héctor Villalba and bypassed the Toronto backline with his pass. The Argentine made no mistake and finished low and hard enough for Alex Bono to not be able to reach down and save, and give Atlanta a goal against the run of play.
Toronto responded well to going down a goal and five minutes later, Giovinco got his goal. Víctor Vázquez found some space near the the penalty area and lifted the ball towards Altidore. The US inetrnational then played a clever little flick to put Giovinco one-on-one with Kann and this time, Giovinco's finish was on the money.
Toronto continued to press Atlanta back towards their won goal and the away side had Kann to thank for them not going down by multiple goals before half-time as the goalkeeper made two big saves against Giovinco to keep the score at 1-1. Toronto's constant pressure finally told in the 44th minute as Steven Beitashour got to the byline and squared the ball to Justin Morrow who had made a near post run and the wing-back finished easily from close range.
The pace does not let up in the second half
The tempo of the first half did not slow down after the break as both teams tested the goalkeeper time and time again.
The hosts, and in particular Chris Mavinga, fell asleep 90 seconds after the restart and allowed González Pirez' long ball to go over all of their heads and right into the path of a streaking Villalba. Villalba, who was playing the place of the injured Venezuelan Josef Martínez, is doing a remarkable job to replace the loss of Martínez' goals and he grabbed his second of the night, and Atlanta's second after finishing well past Bono.
From then on, it was a case of which goalkeeper would flinch first. Almirón almost got a third for Atlanta in quick succession but Bono got down low to stop the effort and collapsed on the rebound before Villalba could get to it. Altidore was the next to test the goalkeepers as his tame effort was well-saved by Kann in the 66th minute.
The battle between Almirón and Bono continued. The TFC goalkeeper made a good diving save to keep Almirón's curling effort out of goal in the 69th minute. Vázquez then tried his luck froma long way out after some nifty footwork but Kann was in a good position to gather the ball easily in the 70th minute.
Momentum then swung in Toronto's direction as five minutes later, after a replay was shown on the screen and some discussion with his officiating team, referee David Gantar gave Yamil Asad a straight red card for elbowing Eriq Zavaleta in the head. It was another contentious decision on a weekend that has seen some interesting calls made by referees in the MLS and it handed Toronto the initiative to get the winner. That was almost the case in the 86th minute when Giovinco tried to link up with Altidore in the box but Altidore was unable to get a foot on the ball even while stretching.
Atlanta will take the draw all things considered, and will be happy with their second point on the road as they continue to defy expectations of an expansion team. Toronto however, will not be satisfied with just one point as this is the second draw in a row at home after playing their first few games away from BMO Field. If either team wants to stay at the top of the Eastern conference they will look to rectify their current situations with wins next week that will help push them up the table again.