TORONTO—Toronto FC and New York Red Bulls played to a 1–1 draw on a beautiful summer’s night at BMO Field on Saturday in front of 20,000 fans.
All the game’s scoring was completed by the sixth minute of play. Jan Gunnar Solli volleyed in a cross from the right flank by Brandon Barklage in the fourth minute giving New York an early lead.
But TFC responded less than two minutes later as the red hot Danny Koevermans got his eighth of the season, heading in a Torsten Frings corner.
“It was just a great performance from Toronto today. It was a massive performance against the leaders,” Koevermans said after the match. New York entered the match tied for first place in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, 22 points ahead of Toronto FC.
Toronto FC was coming off their best performance of the season—a 3–0 road win in Montreal that was only the second home loss of the season for the Impact. The win was the first for Paul Mariner as head coach of TFC.
New York came into the game well-rested, having edged out their archrivals DC United 3–2 last Sunday. The Red Bulls welcomed mercurial striker Henry into the starting lineup. He had come on as a sub against DC United after suffering a calf strain and missing the two prior games.
Play was well-balanced for the rest of the first half with most threats coming off free kicks. Henry had a couple of opportunities, the second stemming from a foul by Terry Dunfield that earned the Canadian midfielder a yellow card.
Improvement Under Mariner
Under Mariner, Toronto FC has adopted a more traditional 4–4–2 formation with Koevermans and Johnson the preferred partnership up top. Set piece defending has been a notable improvement thus far.
“We don’t want to get a reputation to be soft on set pieces,” said Mariner in his postmatch press conference.
Central defender Logan Emory made a goal-saving tackle in the second half. The young American has stepped into the shoes of first-choice Canadian central defender Adrian Cann who is injured with a knee sprain.
Mariner called Emory an “unsung hero” and heaped praise on his young back line. TFC’s defensive performance prevented New York’s Henry, Kenny Cooper, and Dane Richards from creating any significant threats. “Ashtone [Morgan] held up to Dane Richards who is a dangerous footballer,” Mariner said.
Toronto FC had to deal with the absence of Doneil Henry, who had come down with an unspecified medical reaction, and Julian de Guzman who was suffering from a stomach ailment and was thus only used a substitute.
“We’re a little harder to beat than we have been in the past,” Mariner said. Since Mariner took over, TFC’s record is one win, three draws, and one loss. Toronto FC is now unbeaten in its last four matches after starting the season with nine straight losses.
Toronto FC garnered praise from Henry as well. “We good a good point away from home against a team that’s doing well at the moment. I think it was a good result for us overall,” Henry said.
“We can see that they’re more compact. Their fullbacks covered well. They’re a more direct team compared to what Aron Winter wanted to do.”
Toronto FC’s busy schedule continues with a July 4 matchup in Dallas, while New York stays on the road with a trip to New England on July 8.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports
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