There’s no place like home.
After being forced to play at Citi Field for the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals, New York City FC were upset in a 2-1 loss to Toronto FC on Wednesday night. Top-seeded NYCFC, which normally play their home games at Yankee Stadium, looked out of sorts in the first half, and ultimately couldn’t overcome two fatal mistakes in the second.
NYCFC survived a testy opening period in which they were comfortably outplayed by Toronto, which continuously threatened to score and forced goalkeeper Sean Johnson into action on numerous occasions. Derisive chants directed at Toronto captain Michael Bradley set the tone for a heated match.
The sluggishness NYCFC showed in the first half seeped into the second, in which it took Toronto just three minutes to score. An awkward bouncing ball in the 48th minute led to an errant back pass off the head of NYCFC’s Maxime Chanot. Alejandro Pozuelo quickly pounced and slotted it home for Toronto.
Needing a goal to keep its season alive, NYCFC finally imposed themselves on the game, peppering the Toronto half with pressure. Top-scorer Heber, still recovering from a right quad injury, entered the game in the 59th minute.
That change showed NYCFC’s urgency, and they scored just 11 minutes later when Ismael Tajouri-Shradi poked home a cross from Maxi Moralez. The game’s momentum shifted as NYCFC were finally looking the part of a team with home-field advantage. Even more, if the game entered extra time, it would mean Toronto’s tired legs would have been playing 240 minutes since Sunday.
But that hope was soon squashed.
In the 87th minute, NYCFC’s Ronald Matarrita committed a needless penalty, hacking down Richie Laryea after the midfielder got by him in the box.
Three minutes later, after the penalty stoppage resumed, Pozuelo again seized the moment, chipping his penalty right down the middle and sending NYCFC stumbling toward another uncertain offseason.
When the whistle blew on NYCFC’s season five minutes later, Matarrita collapsed to the ground.
The Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed, in an unusual home, had been defeated.