The Red Bulls (11-9-4, 37 points), which lost at BMO Field 3-1 July 17, moved into third place with the win, leapfrogging rivals D.C. United and NYCFC ahead of their Week 22 games. Toronto FC, which could have moved ahead of the playoff line, fell to 9-10-5, 32 points.
“It’s a very very important three points,” Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles said. “After last week there’s a lot of disappointment, especially directly after the game because we knew that we let one slip.”
The opening goal came 10 minutes into the second half when Kaku split Toronto FC defenders Auro and Omar Gonzalez and looked for options in the box the Paraguayan playmaker tried to sent a ball across the face of goal, but instead it took a deflection off a sliding Chris Mavinga and into the Toronto FC net.
The Red Bulls had chances to extend their lead, most notably from the penalty spot three minutes later after Marc Rzatkowski was clipped by Jonathan Osorio in the box. But Danny Royer put his effort well over the crossbar for his first missed PK in MLS.
Later in the second half, Rzatkowski bounced a shot off the post after having the time and space to take the attempt. It was in stark contrast to the opening 45 minutes, in which Toronto had the more dangerous opportunities.
“We talked about being a little bit tighter, a little bit more compact, and then we have to stick to it, and believe in it and really go all the way with some of the principles of running at the ball,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said of the message at halftime. “We looked a little timid in the first half and the spaces were just too big.”
It wasn’t until after TFC were reduced to 10 men when Justin Morrow was sent off for pulling down Bradley Wright-Phillips that Lawrence netted the insurance tally, pouncing on a rebound at the back post in the first minute of second-half stoppage time.
“It’s always a fun feeling to get your team a goal to see the guys smile,” Lawrence said. “But I feel like always make my priorities straight. And I want to always be that lockdown guy, but to be able to be that player on both side of the field is what my team needs.”
Toronto FC had the better of play in the first half, but weren’t rewarded for their 67.4 percent possession.
“The first half they were very passive and I think we were really able to play through them and create opportunities,” Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said. “The second half, they were a little bit more aggressive. I thought we looked a little bit slow to work for each other, to get into good spots for each other.”
Aug 3, 2019; Harrison, NJ, USA; New York Red Bulls midfielder Daniel Royer (77) leaps over Toronto FC midfielder Alejandro Pozuelo (10) as they fight for the ball during the first half at Red Bull Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
A big reason why the visitors didn’t take a lead into halftime was Robles, who got a touch of a Nick DeLeon effort in the 4th minute, parrying it away for the first of six first-half corner kicks.
The Red Bulls goalkeeper also got a touch on a shot from Alejandro Pozuelo that first caromed off the post in the 42nd minute and saved his best first-half shot for last, scampering to the back post to deny Jacob Shaffleburg’s open shot after Jozy Altidore played a ball across the face of goal two minutes later.
“After you see a few saves like that it’s almost like you take a deep breath like yeah, they’re not going to score tonight,” defender Aaron Long said. “So you can just start feeling good about yourself and about a team like yeah, we can actually do this one, this is a shutout, we can feel it, it starts feeling like home again.”
Altidore thought he had the game’s first goal in the 20th minute, when he was played behind by DeLeon and chipped Robles, who came off his line to challenge. Altidore pumped his fist in front of the South Ward, but assistant referee Oscar Mitchell-Carvalho raised his flag for offside to call the goal back.
The Red Bulls best chance in the opening 45 minutes came in the 9th minute when Tim Parker latched onto a driven Rzatkowski corner kick, but his diving header was cleared away for another corner.
Pozuelo also had an open look at goal on the half-hour after a clever pass slipped through by Auro, but he skied his effort from 12 yards out.
The Red Bulls head to LAFC to take on the Supporters’ Shield leaders next Sunday, while Toronto FC return home for another Eastern Conference six-pointer against Orlando City SC.