After a 2-0 win against one of the best sides in the Western Conference, coach Adrian Heath kept the lineup the same against the top team in the East, Toronto FC. Even with the same XI, Heath had a slight wrinkle.
The back four was still same, with Marc Burch and Jérôme Thiesson on the wings, and Francisco Calvo and Brent Kallman in the middle. Sam Cronin and Ibson were again paired in the midfield and Ibarra was out on the left. In the middle, as the second forward, was Kevin Molino. In Molino’s usual right side spot was Abu Danladi. This would prove to be a fateful decision.
Leading goalscorer for the Loons Christian Ramirez again was up top as the striker.
For Toronto, they have played 4 games in 11 days, and so head coach Greg Vanney has been forced to feature heavy rotation for their lineup. USMNT striker Jozy Altidore started on the bench, but Giovinco was back after dealing with a heel injury.
Minnesota came into BMO Field with a clear game plan. Force Toronto to move the ball up the flanks and deny Bradley and Giovinco a chance to have the ball.
For much of the first half Minnesota defended calmly, never hurried. The Loons let Toronto have the larger share of possession, but kept their defensive shape, and only really pressed when in the final third.
After spending 19 minutes staying even with Toronto FC with neither team having a real chance on goal, Danladi gifted the Reds a penalty with a poor tackle on Raheem Edwards in the box. Giovinco waited for Shuttleworth to dive to his right, and then drove the ball down the middle.
In the 26th minute, Ibarra had a great scoop pass to Danladi in the box, but Danladi’s left-footed shot went just wide on the near side. A minute later, Danladi earned Minnesota a free kick just outside the eighteen, but Calvo’s attempt didn’t dip down soon enough behind the wall and sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.
In the 43rd minute, Altidore came on for Giovinco, who had been hobbled by a heel injury and couldn’t continue.
Minnesota hoped to strike before the half, and pressed forward looking to create a shot on goal. A string of quick passes gave Ibarra a chance that had to be palmed above the goal. The ensuing corner was quickly dealt with by Toronto, and the home side entered the halftime break up 1-0.
In the 50th minute, a free kick in the attacking third nearly led to another goal for Toronto. Kallman tried to head the ball clear, but the ball instead went straight up. Toronto headed the ball to the far post, but Ricketts couldn’t quite get on the end of it and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Like the Loons had done six times before, they found the back of the net soon after the half. Abu Danladi had an excellent pass to Molino who headed the ball past Alex Bono to even the score at one.
Toronto quickly answered. Bradley bent a free kick from near the right corner perfectly to far post. Chris Mavinga and Ramirez were caught in a wrestling match and the ball bounced off the Minnesota striker and into the back of the net. The top team in the East was once again on top.
Minnesota kept believing they could earn a result. Pressing forward, Ibarra and Ibson fought hard to win the ball back along the end line and earned the team a corner kick. On the ensuing corner kick, a Toronto player was caught with his arm out and Minnesota had a penalty kick.
Molino’s shot was soft and Bono was able to block it but the Trinidad and Tobago player jumped on the rebound and leveled the game at two goals apiece.
By the 70th minute, Toronto began throwing 7 or 8 players forward, searching for the winning goal. The game became a war of attrition. Would Minnesota be able to hold onto the point on the road before the attacking strength of Toronto found the winning goal?
The steady defense of the first half was gone, replaced by desperation. Minnesota couldn’t get the ball out of their half, and finally Toronto was able to find their third goal. Altidore was held up by Cronin, but Thiesson’s clearance went right back to Altidore. He broke down the right flank and his cross found an open Ricketts.
The game ended in frustration for Minnesota, as the substitutions of Johan Venegas and Ish Jome weren’t able to jump start the offense and the Loons couldn’t get off a shot on goal to try and steal a point at the end.
As the whistle blew for full time, Minnesota was left to wonder what might have been. The team will need to regroup this week as they face a reeling Las Angeles Galaxy next Sunday at home.
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) May 13, 2017
— FiftyFiveOne (@FiftyFiveOne) May 13, 2017
Toronto FC 3 – Minnesota United FC 2
Stadium: BMO Field, Toronto
Kickoff: 2:00 p.m. (CDT)
Weather: 62°, Sunny
TOR – Sebastian Giovinco (20′, PK)
MIN – Kevin Molino (52′)
TOR – Christian Ramirez (54′, OG)
MIN – Kevin Molino (62′)
TOR – Tosaint Ricketts (77′)
Jozy Altidore (90+3′ Not Retreating)
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