Achara, who had a first-half goal called back for offside following video review, crashed in at the back post for the late winner to send the crowd of 26,171 home happy from Toronto FC’s home opener.
“When they told me I was going to start, I was like OK, I’m going to go out there, do my thing and try to score goals, be in the right position,” Achara said. “Two goals would have been much better, but I’ll take one.”
The sequence started with a poor attempted switch of fields to clear from Ronald Matarrita that was picked off by Achara, who attacked the space in front of him. He played to Jozy Altidore, who penetrated the 18-yard box. Richie Laryea called off Altidore after his first touch escaped him and whipped a deflected cross toward the back post where Achara finished emphatically in the 81st minute.
“Tonight he was fantastic,” Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney said of Achara following his 100th career win. “He’s been fantastic since the day he arrived in preseason in LA. … From the day he arrived, he’s shown that he fits in, he’s talented, a smart player, he can adapt within the games, can read plays, can play on the move as we saw tonight. He has soft feet, even when he’s playing on the run and he’s got a nose for goal.”
Achara, who filled in for Tsubasa Endoh after the winger failed a late fitness test, thought his first MLS goal came much earlier in the match when he again snuck in at the back post to knock in a low, rolling Jonathan Osorio shot attempt.
But referee Ted Unkel went to the monitor to review and it was called back for offside.
Unkel also went to check a possible penalty kick when it appeared James Sands tripped up Justin Morrow in the box in the 27th minute. But Unkel didn’t point to the spot, instead signaling for a throw-in.
The hosts were the more dangerous team in the first half with Erickson Gallardo putting a shot off the crossbar after the ball fell out to him at the top of the 18-box following a block by Alex Ring in the 41st minute.
In first-half stoppage time, Achara forced Johnson to parry away an effort from outside the 18-yard box that resulted in Toronto FC’s third first-half corner kick.
Keaton Parks, who was denied by a Quentin Westberg kick save in the first half, started a quality sequence at the hour mark when he played a looping ball ahead to Heber. The Brazilian then played to Jesus Medina on his right and the Paraguayan cut the ball onto his left with space in the box.
But Westberg again made the save before corralling the rebound.
“We created a big chance with Jesus (Medina) and then the game was very even but, in the end, they had a couple more chances,” NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said. “I’m disappointed in the first half. Twenty minutes of the second half we were in better shape, we were a better team than we were in the first.”
Altidore had a golden chance in the 68th minute, latching onto an Alejandro Pozuelo free kick, but he put his first header directly into Johnson and the rebound was nodded over the crossbar.
Altidore had another chance in second-half stoppage time, but Johnson made the save, his eighth of the game.
Toronto FC (1-0-1, 4 points) remain home next Saturday, taking on expansion side Nashville SC, while NYCFC (0-2-0, 0 points) meet Tigres UNAL at Red Bull Arena Wednesday in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals.