Toronto FC falls short in bid for Supporters’ Shield in regular-season finale

Toronto FC’s bid for the Supporters’ Shield ended in disappointment Sunday as it lost its regular-season finale 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls and rival Philadelphia downed New England 2-0.

The trophy goes to the MLS team with the best regular-season record.

Toronto (13-5-5) needed to pick up more points than Philadelphia (14-4-5) on the day given they were tied on points and wins going into Decision Day. The Union also held the edge in the relevant tiebreaker of goal differential per match.

The Shield carries with it home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as well as a US$150,000 prize. For Philadelphia, in claiming its first-ever trophy after finishing runner-up in the U.S. Open Cup in 2014, ’15 and ’18, it also means a berth in the 2021 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League.

Sunday’s result means Toronto goes into the playoffs having lost three of its last four games (1-3-0).

A 5-0 defeat in Philadelphia on Oct. 24 and a 1-0 loss to New York City FC four days later in Hartford cost Toronto, which was ravaged by injuries at the time, in the standings. The Union let Toronto back in the hunt by losing 2-1 in Columbus last weekend.

Still, Toronto delivered a fine showing over a pandemic-rejigged season that forced it to play all but four of its 23 regular-season games away from BMO Field, with six at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. TFC will also play its home playoff games there.

Trailing 2-0 after a poor first half Sunday, a different Toronto side came out to start the second and pulled a goal back five minutes into the half. But the Red Bulls (9-9-5) absorbed the pressure and kept their heads.

Tom Barlow and Brian White scored for the Red Bulls. Tsubasa Endoh replied for Toronto.

The Red Bulls came into Sunday’s game in seventh place in the East, hoping to move past New England into sixth and avoid the post-season play-in round.

The Red Bulls struck quickly Sunday, taking advantage of Toronto defensive miscues with goals from Barlow in the 24th minute and White in the 26th. It marked the first time Toronto has conceded twice in the first 30 minutes of an MLS game since July 20, 2019, against Houston, according to Opta.

Barlow scored off a corner with White flicking the ball on to the far post. Barlow rose above Chris Mavinga and headed the ball in for his third of the season. Toronto had six defenders inside the six-yard box at the time.

The Toronto defence was ripped apart again minutes later when fullback Kyle Duncan was left uncovered as he headed towards the penalty box. He sent the ball across the goal for an unmarked White to tap it in.

It was the fifth goal of the season for White and the fourth in his last five matches.

Endoh pulled one back for Toronto in the 50th, knocking in the rebound after Ryan Meara made a fine save off Nick DeLeon, who sidestepped a defender to make room for the shot.

AltidoreĀ returns to action

Star striker Jozy Altidore, who had missed the last seven games with a hamstring strain, came on in the 57th minute to add to the Toronto attack.

But fullback Richie Laryea lasted just 41 minutes before limping off and midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who sat out the last three outings through injury, did not come out for the second half. The initial word on Osorio’s departure was that it was not injury-related.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney made three changes to the starting 11 that beat Inter Miami 2-1 last time out with Osorio, Laryea and centre back Omar Gonzalez coming in for Ralph Priso, Tony Gallacher and Eriq Zavaleta.

Fullback Justin Morrow, midfielder Marky Delgado and attacking midfielder/forward Pablo Piatti continue to work their way back from injury.

Playoff feel

The game had a playoff feel to it, despite the empty stands. While Toronto had 62 per cent possession in the first half, the Red Bulls seemed to spend more time at the TFC end and outshot the visitors 8-1 (6-0 in shots on target).

Toronto threatened in the eighth minute, attacking with numbers when a Red Bull player lost his footing and the ball. But Ayo Akinola was penalized for bundling down defender Tim Parker, ending the attack.

Quentin Westberg had to make a smart save off Barlow in the 23rd minute after the Toronto defence dithered in clearing the ball. Laryea lost the ball, Mavinga offered some cavalier defending and captain Michael Bradley failed to send the ball to safety.

Westberg made a diving save in the 39th minute to get a hand to Barlow’s curling shot.

A sliding DeLeon came close for Toronto in stoppage first-half time but he could not get a boot to Auro’s low cross after Bradley found the Brazilian fullback with a nice ball.

Meara used his leg to stop a dangerous Bradley shot in the 57th minute.

The Toronto travelling party headed home after the match, hoping to get approval from local authorities to train at home while waiting for the post-season to begin. TFC’s playoff opener will be Nov. 21-24, likely nearer the end of that window.

Impact beat D.C. United

Romell Quioto scored the go-ahead goal in the 88th minute as the Montreal Impact secured a playoff spot with a 3-2 win over D.C. United on Sunday at Audi Field.

The result gave Montreal the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Impact will visit the New England Revolution in a play-in match on Nov. 20.

Victor Wanyama tied the game in the 74th minute with a powerful header off a corner kick.

Donovan Pines put the hometown side on the board with a goal at the nine-minute mark.

Bojan pulled Montreal even four minutes later. Ola Kamara restored United’s lead in the 33rd minute.