This past Wednesday, Toronto FC played host to division rivals New England Revolution. With the regular season coming to a close, Toronto is trying to collect as many points as possible with the hopes of securing a playoff spot. Unfortunately, much like their previous matchup with New England, it would end in a draw and Toronto would only walk away with single point.
The 2-2 final at BMO field was not indicative of Toronto’s dominating performance. A few lapses in judgement put the Reds behind, forcing them to play catchup for a large majority of the match.
Bob Bradley started a familiar lineup. Bono continued in goal behind a defensive line of Laryea-MacNaughton-Mavinga-Criscito. The midfield three also remained unchanged with Michael Bradley in the pivot flanked by Jayden Nelson and Jonathan Osorio. Lorenzo and Federico took their respective positions on the wings but this time were joined by Ayo Akinola in the number 9 spot. Akinola replaced an out-of-form Jesús Jiménez, who's last was scored the end of June.
Although Jiménez was likely benched because of his poor form, Bob Bradley could have easily made his decision based on a tactical adjustment. Akinola and Jesus provide differing skill sets to the number 9 role. Where Jimenez is better at link-up play and manoeuvring within the penalty area, Akinola provides more pace and physicality .
That pace and physicality proved to be a threat to New England. In the 29th minute, Akinola would earn a penalty after he was clumsily brought down by Christian Makoun. Akinola had gotten the better of the Revs defender after receiving a through ball from Jayden Nelson. Bernadeschi would convert the penalty, giving the Reds an early lead.
That lead would be squandered less than ten minutes later as a Revs’ Tommy McNamara would bury one in after recovering a bobbled save from keeper Alex Bono.
Things would worsen for the home team early in the second half. In the 48th minute, Carles Gil would send striker Justin Rennicks past the Toronto backline with a perfectly timed pass. Rennicks would slip it past bono for the 2-1 lead.
Toronto would be on the front foot for the remaining half hour. New England would collapse 6 in their defensive third allowing for Toronto to maintain possession. The frustration on Lorenzo Insigne’s face grew longer with every passing minute as Toronto FC could not penetrate New England’s block.
Bob Bradley finally called a switch at the 65th minute mark. He would bring on Deandre Kerr and Jesús Jiménez for Jayden Nelson and Ayo Akinola. The fresh legs did not bring any drastic change in quality but allowed them to remain persistent.
That persistence finally paid off in the 75th minute. Michael Bradley would lob a pass outside the box to Domenico Criscito who then volleyed it past the keeper into the top left corner. BMO field would erupt with screams of wonder and relief. The Reds would only secure a point but would do so in exhilarating fashion. With a shrinking schedule, let’s hope that it was sufficient enough for a chance at the playoffs.