Toronto FC sends clear message with emphatic win over NYCFC

TFC

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco (10) celebrates with teammates including Jozy Altidore (right) after scoring against New York City FC. (Jon Blacker/CP)

New York City FC 0, Toronto FC 4 (Giovinco 32’, 67’, Altidore 75’, Edwards 82’)
• TFC unbeaten in last 12 home games, with nine wins
• Giovinco now has 50 goals in MLS regular season play

TORONTO – The Big Red Machine keeps rolling along.

It wasn’t quite like its 5-0 beat down of New York City FC in last year’s playoffs, but Toronto FC’s 4-0 win over NYCFC on Sunday was a big one.

In a match pitting Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco, the best player in Major League Soccer, against New York’s David Villa, the reigning league MVP, it was Giovinco who came out on top, with the Italian scoring a pair of spectacular goals, and setting up a third. Giovinco now has 50 goals in MLS regular-season play. Jozy Altidore and Canadian Raheem Edwards also scored for the home side.

The victory allowed Toronto (12-3-7) to maintain its firm grip on first place in the overall league standings, and open up a five-point lead over the Chicago Fire and a six-point gap on NYCFC atop the Eastern Conference. TFC also extended its unbeaten run at home to 12 consecutive regular-season games, with nine wins.

The 29,203 fans in attendance on this gorgeous summer afternoon were treated to one of the most emphatic TFC performances against an opponent that is supposed to be one of the Reds’ top challengers. On this day, though, Toronto FC sent a clear message to the rest of the league while a national TV audience in the U.S. watched on the ESPN broadcast: the road to the MLS Cup goes through BMO Field.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney downplayed suggestions that this was a statement win in the post-game press conference.

“Maybe. I don’t know. That’s up for [other] people to decide,” Vanney said. “We try to make a statement every game we play. Today was no different.”

It was a sentiment echoed by TFC captain Michael Bradley, who like his coach remained humble in victory.

“It was a good afternoon for us,” Bradley said without a hint of false modesty.

“When we’re at our best … we feel like there isn’t a team in the league we can’t beat, whether it’s at home or away. That quiet confidence has to continue to be there, we have to remain humble and understand that the second our foot goes off the gas just a little bit that we can lose to anybody.

“But with this group, the part I like most is the hunger and determination every single day from every guy.”

No doubt the Blue Jays’ amazing ninth-inning comeback on Sunday afternoon will lead off the evening’s sports TV highlight shows, be splashed on the front page of Monday morning’s newspapers, and dominate sports talk radio for the next 24 hours. What a shame that a losing franchise that is essentially out of the playoff race continues to garner more editorial attention than the best sports team in Canada’s largest city. One wonders what more TFC has to do to emerge from the Jays’ shadow and gain the respect they richly deserve?

Toronto was missing defender Steven Beitashour and midfielder Benoit Cheyrou, both sidelined with long-term injuries. Bradley, Altidore and Justin Morrow were back in the starting 11 – representing three of six lineup changes from last week’s draw against Colorado – after returning from CONCACAF Gold Cup duty with the United States. Influential midfielder Yangel Herrera was suspended for New York, paving the way for Italian star Andrea Pirlo to earn his 10th start of the campaign.

Vanney was forced into making an early substitution when rookie Oyvind Alseth appeared to injure his foot. Edwards replaced him at right wingback. The opening 30 minutes was a dull affair, with both teams cancelling each other out with smart, pressing play in midfield, which meant neither goalkeeper was called upon to make a difficult save.

Then came a moment of brilliance when the Reds put together a pretty passing sequence that climaxed with Giovinco stroking a gorgeous curler from 20 yards out inside the far post past goalkeeper Sean Johnson. NYCFC defended brilliantly up to that point, but Pirlo was far too lackadaisical in his attempt to close down Giovinco, giving the TFC forward more than enough time to fire it home.

Villa forced TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono to make a great save from point-blank range in the 60th minute. Moments later, Reds defender Chris Mavinga made a timely recovery tackle to prevent a goal by NYCFC. Morrow had to be subbed out due to injury, and suddenly it looked like the Reds were on the ropes.

But Toronto woke up and put the game away when Giovinco delivered a free kick over the defensive wall and past a helpless Johnson in the New York net.

Giovinco didn’t even know he hit the 50-goal milestone.

“Somebody told me I have this record. But it’s okay – I have time to [score] more and I’m happy,” the Italian said after the game.

Minutes later, Altidore won a penalty decision inside the box following a rash challenge from NYCFC’s Alexander Callens. Altidore duly converted from the spot after Giovinco insisted he take the penalty.

Giovinco turned playmaker in the 82nd minute, exquisitely chipping a ball over NYCFC’s defence that Edwards controlled and then drove past Johnson. It was the young Canadian’s first MLS goal.

“That’s Sebastian Giovinco. He’s world class. I tip my hat to him for the ball he played. My job was pretty easy as I had a lot of time, so I’d have been mad at myself if I didn’t hit the target,” Edwards said.

NOTES: This was the last meeting of the year between these two clubs. They previously played to a 2-2 draw on July 19 at Yankee Stadium… TFC had never beat NYCFC in regular-season play before this game, going winless in their six previous meetings… Toronto defender Drew Moor made his 350th career regular-season appearance on Sunday. He’s only the 10th player (not including goalkeepers) in MLS history to reach that mark… Toronto FC returns to action next Saturday when it visits D.C. United…

TFC Pitchside will provide Toronto FC supporters with an inside look into their favourite obsession Monday nights at 11 pm ET on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Call it an all-access pass for all things MLS brought to you by co-hosts Dan Riccio, Thomas Michalakos and producer Amil Delic. You'll hear from the biggest names around the club, and the MLS. You'll also get reviews and previews of every TFC game with reports from Pitchside at training and on game days at BMO Field. The Six is about to get done!

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.