Aug 12, 2018; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto FC forward Jozy Altidore (17) fouls New York City defender Alexander Callens (6) during the first half at BMO Field. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
TORONTO — A defining theme of Toronto FC’s 2017 season was control. You always sensed the Reds just about clung on to it — even through the moments, in the playoffs and the Canadian Championship, when they sailed closest to the wind.
At its best — including in the MLS Cup final — Toronto was an irrepressible force, bending games to its will.
This year, win or lose, Toronto has rarely felt in any kind of control at all. It has done more losing than winning as a result and in this game, a 3-2 defeat to New York City FC, it’s 12th loss of the MLS campaign, Greg Vanney’s game plan was in tatters after just 11 minutes when Jozy Altidore was sent off in a loss of composure.
Altidore kicked out at New York City FC defender Alexander Callens and saw red. It was the second act of costly indiscipline by a Toronto player in as many games, with Chris Mavinga dismissed at Atlanta United last weekend for a shove to the face of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez after the final whistle. Mavinga will sit out next weekend’s road game against the San Jose Earthquakes and Altidore will now join him.
Without Altidore, Toronto (6-12-5) put in a respectable effort against one of MLS’ best teams. But a stunning goal from Ismael Tajouri-Shradi in the 88th minute secured the win for New York, bringing the visitors within a point of league leaders Atlanta. Tajouri-Shradi rocketed a bouncing ball past Alex Bono from 25 yards for his second of the game.
Altidore was not the only TFC player to be guilty of an egregious error on the day and Tajouri-Shradi’s first goal was described by Vanney as “nonsense” because of his team’s failure to clear its lines. Marky Delgado flicked the ball against Tajouri-Shradi’s boot rather than simply winning the challenge, and Bono allowed the Libyan’s low shot to sneak under him.
David Villa gave New York (14-5-5) the lead from inside the box four minutes after Altidore had walked down the tunnel. Sebastian Giovinco combined with Victor Vázquez to equalize for TFC before Tajouri-Shradi gave Domènec Torrent’s team a halftime lead.
The midway interval was marked by the continuation of some animated conversations between Toronto captain Michael Bradley and referee Hilario Grajeda, with Bradley claiming Callens should have been penalized for a foul on Altidore before the striker lashed out.
“Yeah, it’s probably a red card, but it’s also a foul,” Bradley said. “It’s a foul before the red card. Jozy gets fouled. At the end, it’s a red card. The way things work nowadays, with three or four referees plus VAR, that’s going to be a red card 10 out of 10 times. But for me, the bigger issue is that it’s a foul three, four, five seconds before. The referee’s ability to manage the game, to manage some of these situations, isn’t good enough.
“You have attacking players on both teams that take fouls that are on the end of physical-type plays from defenders and if the balance goes off, if you let a few too many go, if you give a few too many one way but not the other way, then things get thrown out of whack. For me, like I said… yes, it’s a red card, but it shouldn’t even get to that point because the whistle should have blown four or five seconds before to call the foul on Callens and that would’ve been that.”
Vázquez bravely headed in to bring Toronto level for a second time before Tajouri-Shradi’s late winner. Vázquez appeared to injure his shoulder in diving into a melée to score and though he continued for another 30 minutes, he was visibly in pain.
“He’s hurting, but I think it’s more a contusion on the bone than it is a separation or anything along those lines,” Vanney said.
TFC are next in action Wednesday, when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit for the second leg of the Canadian Championship final. Altidore and Mavinga will be eligible to play, but Vanney confirmed Auro, who picked up a hamstring injury in Atlanta, is set to miss at least a few weeks.