Match Recap | NYCFC 1-2 Toronto FC
City’s quest to Make It Here began at Citi Field as the Boys in Blue looked to make good on their first seed from the Eastern Conference and advance to a first-ever Conference final in a week’s time.
Against a familiar foe in Toronto FC, who ended NYCFC’s first MLS Playoffs campaign at this stage in 2016, Dome was able to call upon fit-again Keaton Parks and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi for the match, with top-scorer Héber healthy enough for a place on the bench.
With 17 days since City’s last competitive game, it’s perhaps unsurprising that it took time for the team to find its flow against a TFC side who came through the first round of the Playoffs with a 5-1 extratime win vs. D.C. on Saturday.
It was the visitors from the north who had the better of the opening minutes, with Sean Johnson required twice to make big saves, including one huge palm from a goalbound Alejandro Pozuelo shot on 15’.
Taty Castellanos had NYC’s first meaningful opportunity with 30’ on the clock after a quickly-taken free-kick from Alex Ring put him in the clear, however Quentin Westberg stood up and made the save with his chest to preserve his clean sheet.
That was as good as it got for Torrent’s men in the first 45’ as a slightly subdued home team went back in for the halftime interval knowing they would have to improve after the break to emerge victorious.
However, it was Toronto who found the go-ahead goal just two minutes after the restart as Maxime Chanot’s attempted headed backpass found its way to Alejandro Pozuelo who finished clinically to make it 0-1.
Buoyed on by a crowd who made themselves at home in less familiar surrounds, NYC showed an immediate reaction and almost equalized through Castellanos after an intricate passing move made space for Taty to shoot just over the angle of post and crossbar.
With 30’ to go, Torrent sent on Héber for Parks but it was Tajouri-Shradi who netted his sixth goal of 2019, arriving at the backpost to thrash in Maxi’s deep cross on his instep.
It was a brilliant finish from the Libyan to who had to keep his composure in order to ensure his shot was low and hard and past Westberg before he could react.
Back level, Torrent’s side pushed on for the win in normal time and had chances but it was Toronto who booked their place in the final with a late penalty-kick converted by Pozuelo after Matarrita fouled Richie Layrea in the box.
It was a heartbreaking end to an impressive Season 5 for the Boys in Blue, who will now lick their wounds and go again in 2020.