FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Jozy Altidore sat at his locker, arms folded, frowning.
His Toronto FC teammates wore similar looks of frustration as they moved about the visiting locker room at Gillette Stadium, where they had just gotten off the field and squandered a late lead against the New England Revolution, which rallied for a 1-1 tie off Gustavo Bou’s 86th minute goal on Saturday night.
With the playoff race in full swing in the Eastern Conference and the sixth-place Revolution only one point ahead of Toronto, this result represented two points lost.
Altidore, who was out for the game with a quadriceps strain, just shook his head as Michael Bradley, three lockers down, narrated the replay of a pivotal play in the first half he was watching on his phone.
“He’s on-side, by a yard,” Bradley said of Erickson Gallardo’s 38th minute breakaway, which ended with a collision just outside the penalty area with New England goalkeeper Matt Turner, who likely would have been ejected if not for Kathryn Nesbitt’s late offside flag.
“That’s not offside, it’s a red card,” Bradley added as Altidore shook his head.
The game finished with New England having out-shot Toronto 16-13, though it was a tight affair throughout the night. A big play – like Gallardo’s breakaway – might have tipped the balance, especially since Nicolas Benezet put TFC up 1-0 off a 74th minute header.
Controversy aside, Toronto seemed to switch off after taking the lead as the Revolution upped the pressure. And on the equalizer, Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg didn’t make clean contact on Bou’s long-range shot, which knuckled into the back of the net.
Toronto, which entered the weekend in eighth place, leapfrogged the Montreal Impact, which lost at D.C. United on Saturday night, into the seventh and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
But Toronto could have hopped over New England, too, had it defended its lead. Now Toronto is winless in eight regular season games at Gillette Stadium dating back to August 2013.
“It’s never an easy place to play,” Bradley told reporters.
Bradley has never won at Gillette Stadium at the club level dating back to his June 25, 2005 debut at the facility with the then-New York Metrostars.
“I thought by and large we went after the game in a good way,” Bradley said. “I thought the mentality was good. I think we understood the type of game it was going to be. They’re on a good run this last stretch, so to come here and play the way we did and come away with a point is still positive, obviously. Given the fact that we went up one-zero, and given the fact that we were ahead late in the game, we feel like we should probably be walking away with three, but that’s life sometimes.”
New England’s players weren’t much happier in their locker room, either, and Revolution head coach Bruce Arena also said his players didn’t play well.
Still, the tie doesn’t change much for either side in terms of playoff chances. For now, both Toronto and New England appear to be in far better shape to reach the postseason than the teams beneath them in the standings.
That’s not to say both teams still have a tough road to navigate. The Revolution have just two homes remaining in their last six regular season games, while Toronto’s visit to New England kicked off a three-game road swing that goes through Cincinnati and Colorado.
“That’s why it was so important to pick up these three points,” Toronto defender Omar Gonzalez said. “We’ll see, we’re just taking it game by game. We knew we were heading into three away games. When we look at it, you think about how many points you can get on away trips – because they are very difficult – and so when you’re up one-zero you’re thinking ‘alright, this is great,’ you know?
“If we can hold on to this we start this three-game series with three points and we see what else we can pick up. But a point’s not a bad thing at all. Giving New England three points would have been way worse.”