ORLANDO, Fla. – In one of the most exciting matches of the tournament, New York City FC defeated MLS is Back contenders Toronto FC 3-1 on Sunday. The win for marks the first victory vs. their cross border foes since 2018. This was not expected, as NYCFC stun Toronto, knocking them out of the tournament.
Inspired NYCFC stun Toronto FC in Round of 16
The scoring began early in this one, with NYCFC Designated Player Jesus Medina was found unmarked in the box to slot a right-footed shot past Questin Westberg. City’s early start was tangible early, with Westberg’s four first-half saves keeping City from doubling the advantage.
Similar to the first goal, it took only ten minutes into the second half for NYCFC to double their advantage. A long ball found striker Tati Castellanos, who struck a beautiful ball past Westberg’s left and into the back of the net. Tati’s goal marks it the first in a City kit this MLS campaign.
The last 15 minutes of the match had Toronto throwing the kitchen sink at finding the back of the net. This play caught the reds napping at the back when substitutes Heber and Maxi Moralez linked up to make it 3-0 off a counter-attack in the 81′.
— Last Word on Soccer (@LastWordSC) July 27, 2020
However, The kitchen sink didn’t come for not. Former NYCFC striker Patrick Mullens found the back of the net from the long ball in the 87′. Toronto kept their pressure into added time, but couldn’t get back on the scoresheet.
New York City FC turn a corner
Despite a trip to the knockout stage, NYCFC’s poor play was a major storyline heading into the match. From the opening whistle, you’d think it was all a fluke.
City’s unchanged lineup from their win vs. Inter Miami was inspiring early on, forcing turnover after turnover in the opening minutes. Medina’s goal in the 5’ came from a set-piece forced by a Toronto error.
The catalyst for this change revolved around James Sands. Amidst a match that had USMNT vets and Finnish capped midfielders, it was the 20-year old that facilitated himself as a game-changer in the midfield third. NYCFC has a noted history of young players being picked up by elite European clubs, and Sands interest abroad will only continue to grow from this shift.
Akinola’s absence was prevalent
The group stage storyline for Toronto was the emergence of young striker Ayo Akinola. In the three group stage matches, Akinola scored a league-high five goals, including a hattrick against Montreal in a 4-3 victory.
So when it was announced that Akinola would miss the City match to a hamstring injury, the spotlight was turned on for 17-year-old Jayden Nelson to make his debut.
Unfortunately for Toronto, Nelson couldn’t stun the MLS world quite like Akinola. Numerous times in the match, Pozeola would be alone in the final third with no striker to help support.
Toronto only forced two shots on target in the match, with 0 in the first half.
Akinola’s presence in the XI surely would have fixed that.
Michael Bradley disappoints
Of the disappointing performances on the pitch for Toronto, Bradley’s was the most prevalent. Long regarded as the anchor of Toronto, Bradley’s early mistakes led to numerous chances missed and open lanes for City to attack.
In the first half alone, Bradley lost the most duels on the pitch (five) hence his inability to gain a foothold in midfield.
If there was any player to blame for Toronto’s failure on Sunday, Bradley’s would be the most palpable.
With NYCFC being the victors on Sunday, the pigeons will play the winner of the Portland Timbers vs. FC Cincinnati match for a trip to the MLS is Back Semi-finals.