Toronto, Ontario, Canada (June 8, 2019) — It looked like Sporting KC had finally stole a road win as it led Toronto FC 2-1 at BMO Field on Friday night with mere seconds left to play. However, that’s when it all fell apart.
In the 95th minute and Sporting KC clinging on for dear life, Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo chipped a ball over Sporting’s backline into the path of a charging Ryan Telfer. From there, all Telfer had to do was slide the ball across the six-yard box. He found a wide open Jordan Hamilton who slotted home for the late tie.
“I thought we fought, but you’ve got to fight until the last minute and obviously we didn’t do it,” Vermes said following the game. “(Toronto) tried to get something, but in some places in the field, we just weren’t organized enough.”
However, the point apiece was probably deserved. Sporting earned its two goals off a pair of soft penalties that both went to VAR. The first of those came in the 25th minute when Gerso went down easy on the edge of the box. Following the review, referee Fotis Bazakos changed the foul from a free kick to penalty which Felipe Gutierrez calmly placed in the bottom corner.
The second came in the 73rd minute when Gutierrez was taken down by Nick DeLeon. Despite Bazakos not initially giving the penalty, the play was reviewed and ultimately allowed Gutierrez to tuck home his second goal from the spot.
Toronto’s first goal came from the man who committed the penalty, DeLeon, in the 43rd minute after another well-placed pass across the six-yard box beat Tim Melia.
The bus crashed… again
Heading into Friday night’s game, Toronto FC scored nine goals in the final 20 minutes of play this season. So leading 2-1, what did Sporting KC decide to do?
Park the bus.
Vermes’ men have already conceded sucker punches in the final seconds this season to Vancouver, New England and the New York Red Bulls. There’s clearly a problem with Sporting’s mentality in the final minutes of play this season.
“It’s the same that you always expect when you play away from home. At that point we’re up, and they’re going to throw everything forward, everything,” Vermes said. “And that’s what they did. And so in throwing everything forward, you have to be able to defend.”
Sporting didn’t necessarily defend poorly in the final 20 minutes, winning several free kicks and getting the ball forward. However, when this is a reoccurring theme so early in the season, it needs to be looked at.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) June 8, 2019
Return of the man they call Gerso
Hartzell Gray may not have been at BMO Field on Friday, but there’s a good bet that’s what the Sporting team announcer and hype man Hartzell was shouting back in Kansas City. After missing five games, Gerso Fernandes returned to the starting lineup after suffering a broken wrist.
“He was fantastic, he was dynamic all over the field, ” Vermes said. “For him to be able to play for as long as he did in the game as well, it’s a testament to that kid.”
Gerso offered a dynamic Sporting KC have missed, making darting runs between the lines and causing havoc for Toronto’s back line with his dizzying runs with the ball. Gerso had a huge impact on the game, as he won the first penalty.
“It feels really good to be back and the chance to help the team again,” Gerso said following the game.
What could have been
We may have gotten four goals on Friday, but it could have been so much more if not for the international break. Between the two teams, three forwards combining for a total of 19 goals this season were missing due to their patriotic call. Toronto was without American Jozy Altidore, who has five goals on the season. Meanwhile, Sporting KC was missing both Johnny Russell (Scotland) and Krisztián Németh (Hungary), who have both scored seven so far this season.
And while that may be disappointing, the absences did make way for others to step up, such as an excellent performance in the false nine role again from Yohan Croizet. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Pozuela was able to take center stage yet again since his dominant start to life in MLS.