Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo scored as Toronto FC continued its resurgence with a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls in MLS play Wednesday.
The Red Bulls cut the lead to 2-1 through Tom Barlow in the 63rd minute and the momentum seemed to be shifting the visitor’s way. But a mix-up between New York goalkeeper Luis Robles and a defender in the 72nd minute – with both trying to get to a probing Altidore pass – left substitute Ashtone Morgan with an open goal.
The Canadian fullback, in the right place at the right time, scored just his second goal in 123 regular-season outings. The nine-year TFC veteran scored his only other in 2017.
The victory was another step in the right direction for a Toronto team (8-8-5) finding its feet after a poor first half to the season. While just 3-7-4 over its 14 previous matches, it has now only lost once in its past five outings (3-1-1).
A healthy roster and a few additions are helping turn the tide, as are timely goals and a fortified defence. Toronto, while still prone to some sloppiness, is showing a little swagger on the ball.
The Red Bulls (9-8-4) did not go down easy, however, with Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg making some big saves – some needed after loose TFC play.
New York outshot Toronto 11-6 (5-2 in shots on target) in the first half but found itself trailing 2-0. And the Red Bulls kept coming in the second half.
The announced crowd of 24,462 at BMO Field held its breath as Pozuelo went down in the 60th minute, his ankle bending at a painful angle after being kicked in the back of the leg by Derrick Etienne. The Spanish playmaker was promptly replaced but managed to walk off.
It was 25 degrees at kickoff, with the temperature said to feel like 34.
The home side came out firing on all cylinders and Altidore put Toronto ahead with a exquisite goal in the sixth minute. The U.S. international, with his back to goal, managed to backheel a fine Tsubasa Endoh cross low off the goalpost past a diving Robles for a goal with a considerable degree of difficulty.
The goal, Altidore’s seventh in 11 games this season, capped a 10-pass sequence that started with Westberg.
Pozuelo made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 26th minute after Kemar Lawrence brought down Richie Laryea in the penalty box. It was the Spaniard’s ninth of the campaign.
Barlow scored after Etienne, having the better of Michael Bradley, fed the Red Bulls forward for an easy tap-in. Barlow lost defender Laurent Ciman on the play.
Toronto, which started the evening holding down the seventh and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, is embarking on a key part of the schedule with eight straight games against East rivals after Saturday’s visit by the Houston Dynamo.
New York came into the game 8-3-2 in its previous 13 outings and had lost just once in its last four games (2-1-1).
Both teams were coming off weekend derby victories, with Toronto winning 2-0 at Montreal and the Red Bulls edging visiting New York City FC 2-1.
Facing three games in a week, Toronto coach Greg Vanney made three changes to the starting 11 in Montreal with Ciman, Laryea and Endoh coming in for Chris Mavinga, Auro and Nick DeLeon.
Ciman was partnered with newcomer Omar Gonzalez, giving Toronto a centre back pairing of former MLS defenders of the year.
Barlow made his fourth start of the season up front for the Red Bulls. Star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose last start was April 20 due to a groin injury, came off the bench in the 64th minute.
Brian White, who had started nine of the past 10 games, did not dress. Austrian winger Daniel Royer, who scored twice on the weekend, came on in the second half.
After going up 1-0, Toronto needed a fine save from Westberg three minutes later on a well-struck Vincent Bezecourt shot off a corner to preserve its lead.
Westberg saved Toronto’s blushes again in the 32nd minute when Kaku dispossessed Bradley in the penalty box only to see Westberg get a leg to his shot. Westberg was Johnny-on-the-spot again in the 37th minute, getting a foot to a Barlow shot from the edge of the penalty box.
The game had its chippy moments with referee Silviu Petrescu issuing five cautions, four of which went to the Red Bulls.