There’s something about the games between these two teams.
Toronto FC earned a hard-fought point on Wednesday night in New York City with a 1-1 draw against NYCFC.
Alexandru Mitrita opened the scoring in the 6th minute when his free-kick picked out the top right-corner of the Toronto goal, but Alejandro Pozuelo levelled from the penalty spot in the 40th minute after Jozy Altidore was fouled in the area.
The goals, however, as always the case whenever these two clubs meet, tell only half the story.
Toronto had a number of chances to find the game-winner, most clearly when Pozuelo’s second penalty kick attempt, following a VAR decision on a New York handball, was saved by Sean Johnson. And NYCFC thought they should have had one of their own deep in second half stoppage-time when Chris Mavinga’s flailing arm drew blood from Valentin Castellanos.
It was a wild one at Yankee Stadium.
“We were there for three,”said Greg Vanney post-match. “The second half we had some great chances: obviously a PK, but also some other very good looks at goal. We didn’t hit the target on those and Sean makes a great save on the PK.”
“It was tough – a muggy night, really humid – and I felt like our guys down the stretch just had more, were doing more to push the game, more to try and get pressure, more to try and win this thing,” observed Vanney. “It’s says a lot where our team is at right now.”
“The guys are disappointed that they didn’t take three out of this,” he added. “I’m happy with the effort, I’m happy with, by and large, the performance, and we just needed to execute that one or two more times when we had some really good looks.”
Toronto goalkeeper Westberg hailed it as, “a very good effort.”
“We got scored on pretty early and were able to, not only comeback, but actually do really well in the second half against a very good team that has a playing style that has gone and bothered more than one team,” he continued. “You understand why they are on top [of the Eastern Conference].”
“It was a good game of soccer, very intense, could have gone both ways,” added Westberg. “In the second half, it was closer to our way, but all and all, great character again and a good style of play from us also.”
Said Ashtone Morgan, who got into the action off the bench in the 54th minute: “The boys dug deep. It’s been a long road trip for us. We felt we should have gotten three points, but we’ll take the point and we move on to the weekend.”
Aside from the second penalty kick following a Tsubasa Endoh ball played into the NYCFC box in the 75th minute, TFC had a number of chances. Morgan played in a dangerous ball that found Jozy Altidore in the 55th minute, but his touch bounced up and brushed his arm, drawing a whistle for a handball. Four minutes later Endoh cut inside from the right to drive a shot towards the top left-corner, only for Johnson to stretch and push it wide. Pozuelo sent a good look agonizingly wide in the 71st minute and Nicolas Benezet, who was electric on the night, whisked another enticing chance over the frame in the 86th minute.
"The most important thing is that we're creating chances for ourselves,” stressed Westberg. “It's really important because we have our style of play, our values, our principles that we stick to and this brings us opportunities.”
Some nights the shots just don’t go in.
“Against [FC] Cincinnati, we scored on every shot we had on frame,” recalled the goalkeeper. “So sometimes it goes our way, sometimes it doesn't go as much."
What most pleased Vanney was the way his side approached a daunting environment and playing on short rest.
“The mentality is great,” said Vanney. “Certain games are tough. Tonight was because it’s a good opponent, who plays, it’s a tight field, really humid. You could tell both teams were fading a little bit and legs were getting a little tired.”
“Our guys were pushing to get the result, which is that resilience and heart that we showed at the end, we were just unfortunate not to get there,” he continued. “The guys are confident and this is a good time of year to feel that way. We’ve got to keep building on each one of these efforts and performances and keep working to execute when we have the moments to win the game.”
The point on Wednesday saw Toronto extend their unbeaten run to six matches, while also taking a result from a fourth-straight away match stretching back to a draw against Columbus Crew SC mid-August.
The current three-match road trip saw the team pick up draws away to NYCFC and the New England Revolution, along with the win in Cincinnati – a haul of five points from nine possible.
“Excellent,” summed up Vanney of the effort. “I felt like there was a couple more points there for us to take out of the trip – maybe four more if we’re being honest, but the resiliency this group has showed to take points on the road, to take a win has been great.”
“We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing, keep this mentality when we go home,” urged the coach. “We’ve got to be really difficult to play against. That’s what playoff and end-of-the-year soccer is about. It’s not always beautiful, but it’s got to be tough and through winning the battles we’ll find moments to play because we’ve got good players and a good concept.”
Up into fourth spot in the East and currently holding a home playoff date, now is not the time to take the foot off the gas.
Robin Fraser and the Colorado Rapids come to BMO Field on Sunday, then the Canadian Championship final gets underway in Montreal against the Impact next Wednesday. A trip to face league-leading LAFC lies beyond as well as the second leg against the Impact at home.
Then comes another road game in Chicago against the Fire, setting up Decision Day at home against Crew SC on October 6.
“There is no such thing as comfort in soccer,” reminded Westberg. “The day you sit back, watch the standings is when you get punished. So, it's good, but we just keep building. What's most important is ahead of us."