TFC earn playoff berth with win over FC Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI – A 90-minute lack of drama came to life in Sunday’s stoppage with league-leading Toronto FC clinching a playoff berth after hanging on to a 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati.By recording their fifth consecutive victory, Toronto (11-2-4) had to survive a 94th-minute penalty kick by referee Robert Sibiga who ruled that Omar Gonzalez had pushed substitute Allan Cruz to the ground while a center fell into Toronto’s penalty area. Sibiga indicated the penalty spot but changed the appeal in the 96th minute after the video review.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney believed justice was done, claiming that Gonzalez had a position and that Cruz had supported him.

“It shouldn’t be a fault for us,” he said. “But it was a bit of a blur there for a few minutes, that’s for sure. ”

The drama occurred on Gonzalez’s 32nd birthday.

Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam was not happy with the penalty reversal, noting that Sibiga was 10 yards from the game and had good eyesight.

“If it was like one of the big teams in the league, they would have had a penalty,” he said. “But for some reason, we don’t understand. And I think it was (a penalty). So it’s a strange decision. ”

Seconds after the penalty was reversed, Toronto substitute Laurent Ciman nearly sent a long pass back into his own goal, a play Vanney dismissed as “absurd.”

Ciman’s errant pass triggered a corner kick in the 98th minute which saw ex-Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, still good in the air, lift himself up to send his header out of the frame.

“We should have had more of this game unfortunately,” Stam said. “But that’s where we are now. We have to take our chances. We have to work hard for this. No one will give it to us. ”

These were rare moments of excitement in a game that lacked scoring chances but still produced three more points for TFC. Toronto only managed two shots on target for Cincinnati.

Patrick Mullins broke the deadlock in the 29th minute after Richie Laryea squared the ball through a mass of bodies. Mullins, with the game’s first shot on target, beat goaltender Przemysław Tyton with a right-footed shot for his first league goal since a 5-1 win in Cincinnati on September 7, 2019.

Alejandro Pozuelo collected his 10th assist of the season on the game.

In just his second start to the season, Mullins showed his predatory skills to find the space in the crowded box needed to get the shot.

Toronto is undefeated in seven games (6-0-1), a race that also includes wins against Montreal, New York City FC, Columbus Crew SC, Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution.

TFC has lost just two of 27 regular season games (15-2-10) since its 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls on August 3, 2019.

Vanney’s club are the first to book their postseason ticket this season.

“The guys are proud of it, but their eyes are on something a little bigger in this streak,” he said. referring to the fan shield that goes to the team that finishes first in the regular season standings.

Cincinnati (3-10-4) is at the other end of the board. He has lost four consecutive goals while being edged 10-0 and has won only one victory in his last 11 outings (1-7-4). Both Orange and Blue failed to score in 455 minutes.

Toronto forward Ayo Akinola, who appeared in the second half on Sunday, has scored eight goals, which is Cincinnati’s entire production this season.

Cincinnati’s previous four league games at Nippert Stadium this season have all ended 0-0.

Neither team generated much attacking in the first half despite Toronto leading with around 60% possession. Cincinnati’s best chance in the first half came from a corner in the stoppage time when Maikel van der Werff’s header flashed right off.

Cincinnati had a much stronger second half after Stam brought in Kamohelo Mokotjo and Siem de Jong in the interval. Possession was almost equal at the final whistle.

“We bent a bit throughout the game, but we never broke,” Vanney said.

Ciman’s Strange Night included a yellow card for dissent while on the bench. Cincinnati lost defenseman Mathieu Deplagne in the 41st minute and Tyton in the 81st to injury.

With his club playing the third of five games in 16 days, Vanney made seven changes to his starting 11. Quentin Westberg, Eriq Zavaleta, Brazilian Auro, Liam Fraser, Jayden Nelson, Gonzalez and Mullins have made their debut.

It was the first official league start for Nelson. The 18-year-old midfielder started in Toronto’s round of 16 loss to New York City FC at the MLS is Back tournament on July 26, but that game did not count towards the regular season standings.

The contest at an empty Nippert Stadium was Toronto’s second in a row on artificial turf, following a 1-0 midweek victory at Gillette Stadium in New England.

Ahead of the game, Toronto announced that backup goaltender Alex Bono would be out two to three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated finger suffered in training on Saturday. Kevin Silva disguised himself as a replacement for Westberg.

Toronto will face the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday and Atlanta United on Sunday with both games in its home pandemic in East Hartford.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 11, 2020



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