I’ll put it simply — despite going on a six-game unbeaten run, New York City FC have seldom looked convincing since August. They’ve won ugly 1-0 encounters with Columbus Crew. They grinded a 0-0 draw against a hapless D.C. United. They barely squeaked by an equally abysmal FC Cincinnati. And they once again went scoreless in a scrappy draw with the New England Revolution.
If anything, NYCFC has been efficient; solid. But solid doesn’t lead to trophies. And despite collecting favorable results since the MLS season formally resumed over the summer, fans had reason to have pause regarding the club’s future prospects.
But last night was different. New York City — in a match where they were not being favored at all — were showing up as the underdog against Toronto FC, a top-4 team in the Eastern Conference. Chances were coming in abundance. Opposing attacks were getting shut down left and right. NYCFC were not only outplaying Toronto — they were outclassing them.
Just watch that highlight tape above. A majority of the match was one-way traffic for NYCFC, as they consistently created promising, high-percentage chances on goal. And when I say “consistently,” I mean consistently. City were ruthless in testing TFC keeper Alex Bono, who was forced into making 8 saves on the night.
But no matter who was on the end of each shot, the Blues could not convert. Gary Mackay-Steven — starting at the right wing for NYCFC — missed just wide on a big opportunity in the 26th minute. Moments later, Keaton Parks would looped a header that challenged Bono’s vertical reach. The Toronto keeper failed to maintain a grip on the ball going to ground, leaving the door open for Alexander Callens to pounce on the rebound on to have Bono again make an outstretched save.
Towards the end of the half, NYCFC would be presented with perhaps their best opportunity all game when Mackay-Steven would square the ball into the box from a wide area, where team captain and makeshift left winger Alexander Ring was making a run. Despite getting a good bit of force behind it, Ring’s shot was right at Bono ensuring that both teams entered halftime scoreless.
Oh, and I left one huge part of it out. The officiating was awful,
So on one hand, you’re frustrated that the chances have come to nothing for NYCFC. But on the other, you’re feeling some optimism. City are outplaying their Canadian rivals everywhere on the pitch. Surely, things will come together.
The second half would be more of the same — City presses and attacks, but comes away with nothing to show for it. Toronto would get some chances of their own, however, including a near headed goal that Omar Gonzalez should’ve at least put on target.
The game took a somber turn late when NYCFC striker Héber — who came in as a sub for Taty Castellanos earlier in the night — sustained what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the 84th minute. The Brazilian forward was shown to be in tears and extremely emotional as he was stretchered off the pitch. No update on his condition has been made available.
Shortly after that, things went from bad to worse for the Boys in Blue.
Héber’s replacement Nicolas Acevedo would be whistled for a handball in NYCFC’s box, giving a penalty to Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo. Whether it was a penalty or not really depends on what your interpretation of the guidelines are. I personally thought it was a soft call. But whatever. You be the judge.
Referee Joseph Dickerson did not consult with the VAR.
If this is a handball, this should’ve been as well. Just sayin’.
NYCFC were on the wrong end of two handball calls. The first should of led to a penalty and the second was disallowed because of an incorrect call on Taty. pic.twitter.com/AQeInPvVNk— NYCFC Forums (@NYCFCForums) September 8, 2020
Anyways, Pozuelo stepped up to take it and, of course, made it. From there, TFC would hang on for a prolonged period of stoppage time to inflict a 1-0 loss upon NYCFC.
Disappointing. Very disappointing.