What. A. Game.
Where do you begin? I mean, any game that has eight goals isn't exactly a defensive showcase, but this went above and beyond. Where the last encounter between Toronto FC and New York City was a grim defensive slugfest, this afternoon's match was a frenetic, breakneck shootout. What was supposed to be Frank Lampard's debut provided another treat — if only for neutrals watching, not for fans of either team.
New York City was first on the board, at the 17th minute. David Villa lined up a free kick that nicked the inside of the post and went in. Twelve minutes later, New York City won a penalty as Damien Perquis bundled over Tommy McNamara in the box. Villa took the penalty attempt, only to have it saved by Chris Konopka. However, Patrick Mullins charged after the rebound, and managed to cause a Perquis own goal, giving the Blues a 2-0 lead barely a half-hour in.
All season long, though, New York City's had a bad habit of letting up after taking a lead, particularly at 2-0. Barely a minute after doubling their lead, Toronto earned the softest of penalty calls. Sebastian Giovinco lined up the attempt; Josh Saunders made himself as big as he could. He dove the right direction, and managed to make Giovinco bounce his attempt off the goalpost.
New York City wouldn't be that lucky, though. Some players would hang their heads after a penalty miss. But Giovinco — arguably the MVP of the first half of the MLS season — isn't one. What happened next served proof of that. At the 34th minute, Toronto earned another penalty, after defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe plowed into Daniel Lovitz. Giovinco lined up another penalty attempt. Again he went to the left. This time, he buried it. Toronto was on the board at 2-1.
Six minutes later, a lovely Jackson backheel flick sprang Giovinco into space — and roasted Watson-Siriboe in the process. Shay Facey, his partner at centerback, desperately dashed back on defense, to no avail. Giovinco scored, and the game was level. Then three minutes later, another Watson-Siriboe lapse gave Giovinco a scoring opportunity he wouldn't miss.
Just like that, Toronto was leading 3-2; Giovinco had scored the third-fastest hat trick in MLS history, and New York City was heading into half-time having blown a solid lead in spectacularly embarassing fashion. With Watson-Siriboe at fault for all the goals, fans online were calling for his replacement by Angelino, one of two heralded defensive pickups by New York City.
Kreis duly inserted the Manchester City EDS product as Watson-Siriboe's replacement. Both he and Andoni Iraola were — and are — a step above the players they are likely replacing. They gave New York City a threat going forward that they haven't had before. If New York City are going to convert losses and draws into wins, they need a massive improvement on defense.
That's easier said than done. While New York City started the second half brightly, they were unable to capitalise on their scoring opportunities, much as they have all season. With Toronto's Giovinco still threatening, that was a concern; he continually pressured the Blues' defense, causing them to hurry in possession.
In the 65th minute, David Villa earned another penalty. Yes, that was the fourth penalty given. Unlike the first half, Villa scored to draw the game level. There it stayed until the 82nd minute, when Giovinco took advantage of an Iraola mistake, surged forward, and set up Marco Delgado. Toronto took another lead — at 4-3. New York City hearts seemed broken.
Except that the Blues dashed forward, keyed by midfield sub Poku. The young Ghanaian did what he does best, run at the defence. In the ensuing chaos in the box, Patrick Mullins scored to tie the game once again at 4.
That's how the game ended. Next up for New York City: the flailing New England Revolution, losers of five in a row. Despite the prospect of playing on what's likely the league's worst artificial turf surface, Frank Lampard is expected to play.