New York City came into tonight's game with playoff hopes all but dead. Facing Toronto FC, off a dispiriting defeat to FC Dallas this past Saturday, it would've surprised no one if the Blues would've sagged to a sixth defeat in eight games.
Instead, Frank Lampard scored his first MLS goal, and Patrick Mullins clinched the victory deep into the second half, as New York City beat Toronto 2-0. With the win, New York City is a point behind the Montreal Impact, who hold the sixth and final playoff berth, but have three games in hand.
Wait: Frank Lampard scored? Frank...Lampard...scored? Frank Lampard scored. Yes. It happened.
New York City started out the game well, and kept Toronto off-kilter to start the game. In the 20th minute, Andrea Pirlo slipped a fantastic pass to RJ Allen, who slid by the endline to keep the ball in play. Allen half chipped, half poked the ball to a waiting Lampard, who was all by his lonesome near the top of the box. Lampard trapped the ball with his chest, then lashed it home.
It surely helped that Toronto defenders Ahmed Kantari and Josh Williams left Lampard and Ned Grabavoy utterly unmarked as they chased after Pirlo's pass and collapsed on Allen. And if you're wondering if the Williams in question was former New York City defender Josh Williams, wonder no more; it was.
The goal staked New York City to the lead, but as the half wore on, Toronto grew into the game. In the 25th minute, a wide-open Michael Bradley received a pass from Marky Delgado. Bradley managed to roll it just wide of the Blues' goalpost. That was the closest Toronto got to scoring in the first half, as the half ended with New York City leading 1-0.
In the 59th minute, Sebastian Giovinco nearly nailed a free-kick goal, but it deflected off the wall and goalkeeper Josh Saunders managed to get to it.
Lampard exited the game in the 66th minute, but not before trying to score a second, all for naught. His replacement: the irrepressible Kwadwo Poku, who's surely a good candidate for Rookie of the Year, and an integral part of New York City's midfield.
Toronto's best chance at equalizing the game came three minutes later. Bradley absolutely crushed a ball at Saunders. Somehow, Saunders saved, but gave up a rebound. Once more, Bradley tested Saunders, with an even more wicked shot. Again, Saunders was equal to the task, with a phenomenal reaction save.
Then came the clincher. In the 77th minute, Toronto surrendered a corner. As he has since joining the Blues, Pirlo took the corner. His kick, measured exquisitely, found Patrick Mullins, who beat Toronto's keeper to the ball and scored.
From there, there was no real question that New York City would earn the three full points of measure. Toronto looked lifeless, devoid of desire, resigned to losing once more. Chances were there, chances were spurned. After three minutes of stoppage time, it all mercifully ended.
From here, New York City host San Jose this Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. They have three more games on the road -- at Vancouver, DC United, and Orlando -- before wrapping up the season at home on October 25 as they opened it, against the New England Revolution.