Toronto FC still searching for 1st league win after being run down by Red Bulls

Teenager Caden Clark helped set up one goal and scored the other Saturday as the New York Red Bulls blanked Toronto FC 2-0 in MLS play.

Toronto (0-2-1) has now won just one of its first seven games (1-4-2) in all competitions in 2021, albeit against good opposition and with a lengthy injury list after a pandemic-disrupted pre-season.

Newly signed Venezuelan international Yeferson Soteldo, a $6-million US signing, made his TFC debut off the bench in the 56th minute. The 23-year-old, wearing No. 30, tucked in behind striker Ayo Akinola but had few chances to showcase his skills.

Toronto needed an offensive spark, missing its two other designated players — Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo (thigh) and star striker Jozy Altidore (illness). TFC managed just one shot on target.

Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel had a quiet afternoon.

The New Yorkers (2-2-0) improved their Red Bull Arena record against Toronto to 11-1-2, outscoring TFC 32-8 with eight clean sheets.

Frankie Amaya also scored for the Red Bulls, his first for the club since arriving from FC Cincinnati in April.

The game was a matchup of hard-pressing sides, looking to force the opposition into mistakes and then strike quickly after winning the ball back.

Clark leads Red Bulls’ charge

The Red Bulls went ahead in the 32nd minute after Clark stole the ball from Mark Delgado and headed towards the Toronto goal. He found Fabio and the Brazilian forward who laid it back for Amaya, whose low shot through traffic beat Alex Bono from the edge of the box.

Clark made it 2-0 in the 69th, poking the ball in after Fabio beat Bono to Dru Yearwood’s through ball. The teenager has scored in three of New York’s four matches this season and upped his career MLS goals total to five in just 11 games.

One of those goals was a spectacular strike against Toronto last October, lifting the Red Bulls to a 1-1 tie. The goal came in his second career game — four days after opening his account in his debut just hours after signing a first-team contract.

Toronto was coming off back-to-back losses to Mexico’s Cruz Azul in the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League quarter-final. It lost its MLS season opener 4-2 to CF Montreal before tying the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2.

The Red Bulls downed Chicago 2-0 last time out, after opening losses to Sporting Kansas City and the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Saturday’s game marked a return to Red Bull Arena for Toronto GM Ali Curtis, head coach Chris Armas and assistant coach Ewan Sharp, who all worked for the Red Bulls. Curtis spent six years there, including 2 1/2 as head coach.

A limited number of fans were in the seats Saturday.

TFC’s costly giveaways 

Armas made three changes to the lineup that lost 1-0 to Cruz Azul on Tuesday with Brazil’s Auro and 18-year-olds Ralph Priso and Jayden Nelson coming in for Justin Morrow, Jacob Shaffeburg and Jonathan Osorio.

It was the third career start for both Priso and Nelson. Osorio, who had an icepack on his thigh after leaving the Cruz Azul game at halftime, did not dress.

The Red Bulls were missing midfielders Florian Valot (knee) and Youba Diarra (hamstring) and newly signed designated player Patryk Klimala (visa) and fellow forward Tom Barlow (thigh).

Toronto’s pressing caused early problems for the Red Bulls. But TFC did not help its cause with several giveaways.

Bono dealt with a Brian White header after a fine cross from Andrew Gutman in the sixth minute. At the other end, Akinola shot just wide two minutes later after an attempted Red Bulls clearance deflected to him in the penalty box.

Nelson was off-target in the 11th minute after another Red Bulls turnover due to the Toronto press.

TFC skipper Michael Bradley had to clear the ball to safety after Clark delivered a dangerous free kick into a crowd of players in the Toronto penalty box in the 14th minute.

Fabio came close n the 34th when a fine cross found him between defenders in front of Toronto goal. But he couldn’t control it and the ball bounced wide off his body.

The Red Bulls came out of the break with some intensity, pressuring Toronto.