In what may have been Dome Torrent’s final game in charge of New York City FC, Toronto FC stunned NYCFC on a last minute penalty converted by Alejandro Pozuelo, advancing to the MLS Eastern Conference final on a 2-1 win.
It was a moment of foolishness from New York City fullback Ronald Matarrita gifted Toronto FC a penalty kick in the 89th minute when the fullback needlessly chopped down Richie Laryea. Moments later Alejandro Pozuelo fooled Sean Johnson with a softly chipped panenka and New York was all but done for.
Oh, NYCFC kept working, pushing for a late equalizer in the remaining minute of normal time plus five in added time and the home team nearly got that moment of magic only to see TFC keeper Questin Westberg pull off the fingertip save on a perfectly placed header from Vincent Castellanos.
Afterward, New York keeper Sean Johnson offered no excuses. “Simply,” Johnson began, “We just weren’t good enough today.” Johnson rued his team’s poor first half, noting, “we were lucky to escape 0-0 at halftime.”
It was a game rife with side stories, would CitiField be a true home field advantage for New York City FC? Was NYC’s long layoff better preparation than Toronto’s overtime win over DC United?
Given the opportunity, Johnson wasn’t prepared to use New York’s layoff as an excuse for their poor start versus Toronto. “To be honest,” Johnson said, “I don’t think we can make any excuse. The amount of time we had, not playing any meaningful games in that time period, you can write the narrative any way you want,” “but,” said New York’s number one, “at the end of the day, you have to take responsibility.”
In the early returns, neither question was answered in the affirmative for the New Yorkers, who had goalkeeper Johnson to thank for the 0-0 halftime score after being dominated for 45 minutes by the visitors.
Johnson was called upon to bail out his porous defense on several occasions in the first half and came up big, unfortunately, Johnson could do nothing to prevent Alejandro Pozuelo from opening the scoring in the 48th minute after an ill-conceived and poorly executed back header from Maxine Chanot.
It was an awful way for New York to start off the second half and it put NYCFC’s hopes of a deep playoff run in jeopardy. The home team responded well to that adversity by picking up their intensity, it seemed as if NY suddenly realized what was at stake.
Johnson concurred with that notion saying, “it really took us going down a goal to have some type of energy injected into our team, and it should never be that way.”
Just shy of the hour mark New York nearly got on the board from a delightful looking curler from Castellanos that went barely wide of the Toronto goal. Moments later a loose ball fell to Maxi Moralez but the Argentine’s shot was right at Westberg.
Coach Dome Torrent finally sprung striker Heber from the bench with 30 minutes to play. New York’s goal scoring leader has been recovering from an injury and Torrent had indicated that the Brazilian would likely be used in a sub’s role.
New York finally made the breakthrough in the 69th minute when Ismael Tojouri-Shradi alertly powered home a Maxi Moralez cross that was a touch too high for intended target Castellanos, bringing the already loud CitiField crowd loudly to life.
Then with time running out and extra time looking likely, Matarrita’s rash tackle silenced the crowd, ending New York’s Queens adventure and their season with it.
As for Torrent’s return, the genial Spaniard answered “I don’t know” when asked if he would return next season. “I have to go to Manchester,” Torrent explained, “because for me it is normal after the season to talk about what happened.”
Torrent then added somewhat cryptically, that “many things happened, many, many things. maybe you don’t know but I know.” Torrent said he would have to talk the owners of City Group and I don’t know what will happen.”
Torrent went on to tell the assembled media, “don’t worry, (because) if Dome is not here. the most important thing is the club.” Torrent went on to praise his team, saying NYCFC had “amazing players.” “The most important thing is not the coach,” Pep Guardiola’s longtime assistant noted, “it’s the players.”
So, on a day when the New York Red Bulls confirmed that its coach, Chris Armas, will be back, NYCFC supremo Dome Torrent has put his status for 2020 in doubt.