Fans at BMO Field may not have gotten the win that they wanted, but at the end they did leave satisfied with a come from behind 3-3 draw against the New York Red Bulls. The game had significant implications as not only was first place on the line, but also being the first team to clinch a playoff spot this year. TFC have not had too many games of this magnitude and unfortunately they entered the contest without Tosaint Ricketts (groin) and superstar Sebastian Giovinco (strained quad) in their lineup. The Red Bulls on the other hand are relatively healthy but having difficulties of their own as they gave up a two-goal lead to DC United and had to settle for a single point. At this part of the season, every point is crucial and it becomes less important how you get the results, as long as you get the results.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 18, 2016
After watching the NYRB’s for a few minutes it is easy to see why they won the last two-out-of-three Supporters Shield including last season’s. They apply a systemic and unending pressure on the ball holder. Countless times they close in on opponents with one, two and sometimes three players thereby closing passing lanes and creating a sense of panic for that player. Once they force a turn over, they quickly transition to offence with short, quick passes which is difficult to defend. It maybe shouldn’t have been a surprise then that the Red Bulls came into BMO Field, which is a very challenging place to play, and forced an own goal in the 12th minute and then forced a TFC defender to cough the ball up in the 31st minute allowing 3 players to go in alone and easily putting it behind Alex Bono. TFC were down 2-0 and it didn’t look good.
The first reaction was, “Oh no, not Montreal all over again.” Thankfully, it wasn’t a repeat of that horrible playoff game at Saputo Stadium, this was different. This team has the confidence and tenacity to keep fighting, but more so, they have the skill (even without Giovinco) to get a result. So when Michael Bradley scored his first goal of the season before the half ended, you felt there was a chance for more. Unfortunately, Bradley Wright-Phillips didn’t like that script and three minutes into the second half scored his league leading 20th goal of the season. TFC found themselves down by two goals again and you had to question if TFC had the resolve to overcome yet another hurdle. Coach Greg Vanney tried to inspire his team a little by changing the formation. Vanney brought in midfielder Tsubasa Endoh to replace defender Eriq Zavaletta. This move opened the game and allowed Jozy Altidore to continue his torrid place of late as he eventually notched a pair of goals that tied this game.
With the draw in the book, TFC is still 2 points on top of the East and they also have a game in hand. The idea is to finish at least in the top 2 and therefore get a first round bye and home field advantage in the second round. This could mean facing the Red Bulls all over again. I won’t have a problem with that as it will be another high energy, highly entertaining competitive contest. With four of those last five games at home for TFC; they are in a good position to also challenge for the Supporters Shield. As much of an accomplishment that would be, and trust me, any accomplishment for this franchise is a worthwhile pursuit; I still say that finishing healthy is most important of all. Giovinco wanted to play today despite not being 100% so kudos to Coach Greg Vanney for seeing the bigger picture and keeping the Atomic Ant on the sidelines… at least for now.
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