A game lacking in drama for 90 minutes came alive in stoppage time Sunday with league-leading Toronto FC clinching a playoff spot after hanging on for a 1-0 win over slumping FC Cincinnati.
In recording its fifth straight victory, Toronto (11-2-4) had to survive a 94th-minute penalty call by referee Robert Sibiga who judged Omar Gonzalez had pushed substitute Allan Cruz to the ground as a cross dropped into the Toronto penalty box. Sibiga pointed to the penalty spot but changed the call in the 96th minute after video review
Toronto coach Greg Vanney thought justice was done, saying Gonzalez had position and Cruz backed into him.
“That shouldn’t be a foul on us,” he said. “But it was a little fuzzy there for a few minutes, for sure.”
The drama came on Gonzalez’s 32nd birthday.
WATCH | TFC clinch playoff berth with victory over Cincinnati:
Cincinnati coach Jaap Stam was not happy with the penalty reversal, noting Sibiga was 10 yards from the play and had a good view.
“If it was for like one of the big teams in the league, they would have had a penalty,” he said. “But for some reason we don’t get it. And I think it was [a penalty]. So It’s a strange decision.”
Seconds after the penalty reversal, Toronto substitute Laurent Ciman almost sent a long back pass into his own goal, a play Vanney dismissed as “nonsense.”
Ciman’s errant pass triggered a 98th-minute corner that saw former Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, always good in the air, rise high only to send his header off target.
“We should have had more out of this game unfortunately,” said Stam. “But that’s the position where we are now. We need to make our own luck. We need to work hard for it. Nobody’s going to give it to us.”
The game was filled with rare moments of excitement and few chances, but still produced another three points for TFC, who, with the win, became the first club to book its post-season ticket.
x – @TorontoFC
Patrick Mullins broke the deadlock in the 29th minute after Richie Laryea squared the ball back from the byline through a mass of bodies. Mullins, with the game’s first shot on target, beat goalkeeper Przemys┼éaw Tyton with a right-footed shot for his first league goal since a 5-1 win in Cincinnati on Sept. 7, 2019.
Alejandro Pozuelo picked up his 10th assist of the season on the play.
In only his second start of the season, Mullins showed his predatory skills in finding the space in the crowded box needed to get the shot off.
Toronto is undefeated in seven games (6-0-1), a run that also includes victories over Montreal, New York City FC, Columbus Crew SC, the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution.
TFC has lost just two of 27 regular-season games (15-2-10) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019.
Bono undergoes surgery
Prior the match, Toronto announced that backup ‘keeper Alex Bono would be out two to three weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a dislocated finger suffered in training Saturday. Kevin Silva dressed as Westberg’s backup.
Impacts’ Sejdic scores 1st MLS goal in loss to Union
Jamiro Monteiro and Sergio Santos scored in a nine-minute span and the Philadelphia Union beat the Montreal Impact 2-1 on Sunday night.
Monteiro took a well-placed lead pass from Ilsinho on the right side and just beat the keeper on the near post in the 39th minute. Santos — also set up by Ilsinho — took a cross and tapped it in a largely untended net.
Amar Sejdic got Montreal on the board at the 65th minute.
With the win, Philadelphia (10-3-4) trails Eastern Conference-leading Toronto by three points. The Impact (6-9-2) are in eighth place in the East.
WATCH | Union fend off Impact: