Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Toronto FC midfield Nicolas Hasler fights for the ball with New York Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence at BMO Field in Toronto on July 1, 2018.Gerry Angus/USA TODAY Sports via Reuters

It’s a measure of Toronto FC’s ill-fated 2018 season that the MLS champions were awarded a penalty, limited the New York Red Bulls to just two shots on target and still lost 1-0 Sunday.

Goalkeeper Alex Bono’s fumble resulted in a Kemar Lawrence goal in the fourth minute, consigning Toronto (4-9-3) to yet another defeat.

“We’re kind of in that time right now where we can’t give away a soft goal like that,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. “As a group we need something to build on. That didn’t help.”

Toronto has won just one of its last six games (1-3-2) and stands eight points below Chicago in the last playoff spot, although it has two games in hand. TFC, which plays its next four league games away from home, lost just five games during its championship season last year.

The in-form Red Bulls (10-4-2) went ahead in the fourth minute when Lawrence, pouncing on a corner clearance, hit a long-range left-footed shot that went through traffic and then through Bono.

Sun and shadows may have played a part with the shot going from one to the other. The ball also bounced just before getting to Bono. Still it was a league-worst eighth goal conceded in the first 15 minutes by Toronto.

Bono, who rarely makes a mistake, threw himself on his sword afterwards. “That one’s on me,” he said.

Toronto had plenty of chances to tie it in the second half, including a 78th-minute Sebastian Giovinco penalty. But Red Bulls ’keeper Luis Robles was up to every challenge.

TFC seemed about to get the goal it deserved after Robles stopped Jonathan Osorio at close range in the 74th minute. Toronto players immediately pointed to defender Tim Parker who appeared to handle the ball in the ensuing scramble. It went to video review and referee Hilario Grajeda eventually awarded the spot kick.

Stopped by Robles, Giovinco has now failed on three of four penalty kicks in league play this season.

Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, who has taken over penalty duties from Giovinco in recent weeks, did not dress because of swelling in his knee. Asked who might be next up to take a spot kick, there was a long pause from Vanney.

“That’s a good question,” said the former U.S. international defender, who used to take penalties when he played. “Whoever would step up with confidence to hit it into the back of the net. Maybe it’s something we’ll talk about more.”

Toronto put seven shots on goal in the second half, many of them good chances.

“There’s positive things that are out there, but right now we’ve got to turn the positives into a result,” said Vanney.

The Toronto coach said his team, which had to endure a gruelling CONCACAF Champions league schedule early on in the season and a seemingly never-ending list of injuries, will find its way through hard work and self-belief.

In the meantime, frustration runs high.

Saturday marked the first meeting between the two since Toronto dispatched the Red Bulls in an ill-tempered Eastern Conference semifinal last year.

The Red Bulls are now unbeaten in four games (3-0-1) and have lost just once in their last 10 outings (7-1-2).

Kickoff was delayed 35 minutes for TV, due to the World Cup game between Croatia and Denmark going to a penalty shootout

Temperature at kickoff was 32 Celsius, but was said to feel like 38 degrees. Still an announced crowd of 26,363 came on a hot late afternoon to BMO Field.

New York showed Giovinco little respect all day, bodying the diminutive Italian at every chance. Parker got a 35th-minute yellow card for an egregious challenge that sent Giovinco flying.

Toronto was also without the injured Jozy Altidore, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga and Brazil’s Auro. Gregory van der Wiel, who was given a “maintenance” day Friday, did not dress.

Centre back Jason Hernandez limped off in the 33rd minute with a hamstring issue, adding to the injury woes. Ashtone Morgan replaced him, making his first appearance since May 9.

Since losing the CONCACAF Champions League final to Chivas Guadalajara, Toronto has earned just 12 of 33 league points on offer.

“It’s tough,” said fullback Justin Morrow. “Because there’s a lot of talk going on and people want to bury us. But I don’t think we feel that way in this locker-room.”

On Canada Day, Toronto FC dressed six Canadians. Hamilton and Osorio were in the starting lineup with Morgan, Jay Chapman, Liam Fraser and Ryan Telfer on the bench.

Interact with The Globe