Skip to content

Kevin O'Toole heads New York City to first 2024 win

The unlikely hero fullback scored a sensational game-winning goal, helping New York City FC earn its first three points in come-from-behind fashion.

Don't forget, he played as a forward before becoming a defender. Photo:

New York City FC came from behind and put its first three points of 2024 on the board in a dramatic, determined 2-1 win over Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium.

An unlikely hero emerged as game-winning goal scorer, with left-back Kevin O'Toole powering home a header off a sensational trivela pass from Julián Fernández in the 65th minute.

New York City entered this fourth match a desperate team, sitting on zero points and one goal scored, looking to regroup after a crushing late defeat in the home opener a week ago.

The team did not take a straight path to its first win of the season. New York City conceded a soft goal after just seven minutes played, wasted numerous promising scoring chances (yet again) that could have changed the dynamic of the match, and had to play the final 22 minutes, plus the 11 of stoppage time added on, reduced to 10 players.

Unlike in past matches where circumstances like these might have conspired to have NYCFC settle for a disappointing draw, O'Toole's goal helped the team will itself over the proverbial line.


New York City: 17 shots, 9 shots on target, 56.2% possession, 428 passes, 86.9% pass accuracy, 15 fouls

Toronto FC: 13 shots, 3 shots on target, 43.8% possession, 372 passes, 81.2% pass accuracy, 22 fouls

• Toronto, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, 7'
• New York City, Santiago Rodríguez, 24'
• New York City, Kevin O'Toole, 65'

Attendance: 18,623

Santi swings things

New York City got off to a rocky start against this previously unbeaten, unblemished Toronto side.

In the seventh minute, a long pass from Alonso Coello split the New York City defense, with Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty able to collect, round Matt Freese, and slide his finish home to give the visitors a quick 1-0 lead.

That negative feeling from the second half of the home opener was back with a vengeance. A strong sense of "here we go again" seemed to break out among the Yankee Soccer Stadium faithful.

Thanks to Santiago Rodríguez, the negative vibes only lasted until the 24th minute. That's when Rodríguez scored in his second straight match, curling in a beauty of a free kick to even the score and turn the tide.

The momentum and the number of goal chances would swing sharply in NYCFC's favor after the Santi strike. The terms of the match were leveled, but so too was the equilibrium of the team, with the goal able to settle things down for a possibly rattled, edgy New York City side.

The Uruguayan has now scored two of the three New York City goals this season, and his free kick finish was the first time a New York City player scored in this manner since late 2021.

The team's last free-kick goal was that famous Gudi Thórarinsson arrow that grabbed a point at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and arguably helped springboard NYCFC's run to winning MLS Cup. Santi and his teammates will be hoping his second goal of 2024 has a similar effect.

g+ GameFlow

Cathartic second goal

O'Toole will get the headlines, deservedly, for scoring his first MLS goal in emphatic, dramatic fashion to earn his team a win.

The assist-maker on that goal also deserves a healthy share of the credit, because the Julián Fernández pass that O'Toole guided home was sensational.

The two players linking up to make it 2-1 most importantly helped earn the team's first win of the year, but each of O'Toole and Fernández have to feel good about directly contributing to a goal.

O'Toole has come under added scrutiny now that he's installed as the clear starter at left-back, while Fernández had a tough performance in the season opener in Charlotte and then seemed to lose his place in Nick Cushing's Starting XIs as a result.

Both players put in their best performances of the young season at Yankee Soccer Stadium against Toronto FC. Each player, and no doubt the entire team, needed the boost of confidence these good results can provide—the pinpoint pass and the powerful headed finish could go a long way for both O'Toole and Fernández.

Parks off, bus parked

The high of the O'Toole header didn't last long, as the rollercoaster ride that was this match took another sharp turn a few moments later.

Keaton Parks raised the degree of difficulty for his teammates by getting sent off with a straight red card (following a VAR review) in the 68th minute, deservedly after going studs-up into the ankle of Toronto's Kobe Franklin.

Given the fragile state of this New York City FC team and the still-fresh wounds of the Portland loss, the Parks red card felt like a reality check, a return to the disappointment of 2023 and, even more recently, a week ago.

Instead, New York City successfully hunkered down, parked their imaginary bus, and closed out a much-needed win with professional, pragmatic defending and late-match time management.

Attacking players like Fernández and Mounsef Bakrar were substituted in favor of defenders, and the formation was striker-less by the end of the match, but the conservative choices made by Nick Cushing worked.

That there were 11 minutes of stoppage time didn't seem to phase a down-to-10 New York City. The players kept their discipline and displayed a level of resolve and toughness they'll need more of if they're to go in a more successful direction in 2024 than what the losses in the season's first three matches hinted at.

• Toronto, Kevin Long, yellow card, foul, 23'
Toronto, Federico Bernardeschi, yellow card, foul, 28'
New York City, Birk Risa, yellow card, foul, 42'
New York City, Keaton Parks, yellow card, foul, 63'
New York City, Keaton Parks, red card, foul, 68'
Toronto, Shane O'Neill, yellow card, foul, 72'
New York City, Justin Haak, yellow card, foul, 90'+3'
New York City, James Sands, yellow card, poor sportsmanship, 90'+5'
Toronto, Lorenzo Insigne, yellow card, poor sportsmanship, 90'+7'

• Referee: Muhammad Hassan
• Assistant referees: Seun Yinka-Kehinde, Albert Kyei-Mensah
• Fourth official: Kevin Morrison
• VAR: Joe Fletcher
• Assistant VAR: n/a