Toronto’s Pozuelo ends NYCFC’s season from the penalty spot

QUEENS, NY - OCTOBER 23: Alejandro Pozuelo #10 of Toronto FC celebrates with teammates his 2nd goal of the night by sliding on the pitch during 2019 MLS Cup Major League Soccer Eastern Conference Semifinal match between New York City FC and Toronto FC at Citi Field on October 23, 2019 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Toronto FC won the match with a score of 2 to 1 and advances to the Eastern Conference Finals. (Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

Queens, New York — Staring down Sean Johnson from 12 yards out, Alejandro Pozuelo decided the future of two teams’ season’s from the penalty spot. And in the calmest fashion, Toronto’s Spaniard Panenka’d the spot-kick down the middle of the goal. All New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson could do was fall to his side in dispair.

A pair of goals from Pozuelo in the second half was enough to see Toronto defeat New York City 2-1 to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

Penalty undoes NYCFC’s work at CitiField

It took 69 minutes for New York to feel nice and at home at CitiField, but Ismael Tajouri-Shradi’s equalizer finally did the trick. A sweetly struck volley to tie the game up at 1-1 was the spark the “home” team needed to go on and advance to the Eastern Conference Final.

Playing in CitiField due to Yankee Stadium being reserved for the New York Yankees — even though they didn’t make the World Series — New York’s powder blue team was forced to take up a temporary home at Citifield. A patchy field and a giant safety net across one side of the field were just a couple indications of the arena not being made for soccer.

But those issues were the least of New York’s problems as they struggled to adapt to their new surroundings. Despite the No. 1 seed and “home-field advantage,” Toronto dominated much of the game for the first 55 minutes.

Outshooting, out-pressuring and out-tackling New York, Toronto asserted itself throughout the first half. The road team was unlucky to not lead at halftime and would have if not for several excellent saves from New York ‘keeper Johnson.

But Toronto picked up a deserved lead in the 47th minute after the New York backline decided to play head tennis. Three straight headers from NYCFC defenders allowed Toronto star man Pozuelo to pounce on a mistake and slot home.

The critical moment

Tajouri-Shradi’s goal tied things up for New York, but all of New York’s hard work was undone in the 88th minute.

Sprinting into the box from the right-wing, Richie Laryea danced past New York’s Ronald Matarrita. But before he could get off a cross, Matarrita came flying in from behind. His tackle resembled that of a scissor but on his back while Laryea’s legs were the ball.

Referee Jair Marrufo had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and Pozuelo had no hesitation in chipping the game-winning penalty into the back of the net.

The upset of No. 1-seeded New York means No. 4 Toronto now awaits the winner of Atlanta United and Philadelphia to see who it faces in the Eastern Conference Final.

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