Toronto FC Clinches MLS Playoff Spot
Toronto FC is headed to the playoffs for just the second time in club history.
While a rare success for the organization, the team clinched its post-season spot in a style familiar to long-time fans: the hard way.
The Reds went down by two goals on two separate occasions against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, but an 86th-minute strike from forward Jozy Altidore salvaged a playoff-clinching 3-3 tie.
“To stay in this game, to come back, to get a good point in the end, I thought showed a lot of guts,” said Altidore, who has scored eight goals in his last nine matches.
With results elsewhere going the Reds’ way earlier in the weekend, the home team knew it needed just one point to become the first Major League Soccer team to secure a post-season berth this season. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, would have locked up a spot with a win.
New York came into the match on a club-record 11 game unbeaten streak and with the league’s top scorer, Bradley Wright-Phillips. The Reds were still without star Sebastian Giovinco, who is recovering from quadriceps and adductor strains.
The Red Bulls were first on the scoreboard after just 12 minutes, when Toronto defender Steven Beitashour redirected a ball from New York midfielder Felipe Martins into his own net.
Toronto had more chances in the first half, but New York’s were better and the visitors doubled their lead within 20 minutes. Reds centre back Eriq Zavaleta coughed up a routine clearance to midfielder Daniel Royer. The loose ball reached Wright-Phillips, who made no mistake in beating Toronto’s goalkeeper Alex Bono. Later, TFC coach Greg Vanney admitted “really bad mistakes” kicked his team in the gut in the early going.
Reds captain Michael Bradley helped change the momentum right before halftime when he side-footed a ball home from near the penalty spot.
The team could have been deflated again after Wright-Phillips netted his second of the match just after the break, but up stepped Altidore, who put a 25-yard free kick into the top corner of goalkeeper Luis Robles’ net in the 68th minute.
Altidore tied the game by spinning past New York defender Aurélien Collin and driving a bouncing ball home low.
Despite the last-gasp draw, the team was admittedly frustrated with the performance, Vanney said: “They wanted to win today, so they were disappointed.”
There were some post-game Budweisers to mark the occasion, though.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” said defender Drew Moor. “I hate to bring it up but this is the second time in its 10-year history that this team qualified for the playoffs, so it’s important.”
Moor added the club is pleased with how much time is left to prepare for post-season. Last year’s franchise-first berth was locked up almost a month later in the campaign.
“The Supporters’ Shield (first in the overall standings) is still within reach and that needs to be our goal,” he said. “If we play every single game like we want to win the Supporters’ Shield, when we come into the playoffs we’re going to be ready to go.”