This game was billed as a clash of Eastern Conference titans. It was that for approximately a few minutes in the beginning.
Then Toronto FC took control of the game, and showed why they are the class of the Eastern Conference. Sebastian Giovinco scored twice — in the 32nd and 67th minutes — Jozy Altidore added a controversial penalty in the 75th minute, and Raheem Edwards capped the scoring in the 82nd minute.
To cap New York City’s miserable afternoon, Maxi Moralez missed a penalty in the 93rd minute. That resulted in the Pigeons’ first shutout since losing 1-0 to Orlando in the 2017 season opener. They also surrendered their second and third goals after the 75th minute this season.
The scoreboard made manifest one thing. First, it’s not that New York City is that bad. They’re not. It’s that Toronto FC are that good. The Reds B-team earned a draw on July 19th, when they battled New York City to a 2-2 finish on the road. They were missing Altidore and Bradley, away on USMNT duty.
Possessed of their full complement of key players, Toronto controlled the game. They dictated the pace of the game, and they frustrated a prolific Pigeons’ offense, en route to their deserved win.
But the flip side to that win was that New York City was just as short-handed as Toronto were on the 19th, and it showcased their depth — or lack thereof. There were holes all over the New York City lineup. Let’s look at that.
- First, Frederic Brillant got the start at center back, because Maxim Chanot was missing through injury.
- Andrea Pirlo — one of the worst-ever DP signings in MLS history — got the start in midfield, because Yangel Herrera was suspended after getting ejected in the team’s last game against Chicago.
- Pirlo’s start meant that Maxi Moralez, Alexander Ring, and even David Villa all had to drop deeper, to make up for Pirlo’s deficiencies. That disrupted the Pigeons’ attack to no end, because it gave Toronto time to set up defensively.
- Finally, Tommy McNamara got the start over Jonathan Lewis on the left wing. McNamara is a good player, but he’s not a winger. He lacks the speed and the touch for that position.
The result? A 4-0 shellacking that gives Toronto FC control of the Supporters’ Shield race, and the Eastern Conference race. If New York City were going to contend for regular season honors, this game was a must-win. With the loss, the Pigeons no longer control their destiny in either race.
What’s more, things are tight in the playoff race. The Red Bulls are two points back, are on a four-game winning streak, and have just added to their roster. Atlanta is one of the hottest teams in the league, and they’re three points back.
This is when we find out if New York City are ready to take the next step. On the evidence of today’s game, they’re not.