ATLANTA, GA. – Atlanta United FC hosted Nick DeLeon and Toronto FC on Wednesday night in the 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final. The winner would head to MLS Cup to face Seattle Sounders FC.
Nick DeLeon Stunner Sets up Toronto-Seattle MLS Cup Rematch
It was nonstop action in the first 15 minutes. Atlanta opened the scoring four minutes in. The were very direct in the first half in general and on their goal. They worked the ball quickly through Toronto’s lines. Ezequiel Barco played to Pity Martinez who went in alone with Julian Gressel, setting up his teammate for the easy finish.
Michael Bradley conceded a penalty minutes later, as Pity Martinez fell down in the box after Bradley challenged him. Josef Martinez missed a PK without doing his signature hop. Goalkeeper Quentin Westberg dove correctly to his right to make the save.
Toronto tied the game in the 14th minute. Laurent Ciman found Nicolas Benezet, who cut inside and curled the ball to the far side netting. The half ended 1-1.
The second half was less exciting, as Toronto slowed the pace down and became much more defensive. In doing so, they almost lulled Atlanta to sleep when they got into the attack. The home side had several chances but could not finish, including several looks for Josef Martinez.
Perhaps it all went according to plan. Substitute Nick DeLeon scored in the 68th minute out of nowhere. Toronto moved the ball slowly up field to the top of the box. DeLeon got possession, dribbled in a circle, the spun and shot, going upper 90 to beat Guzan.
The Five Stripes were stunned to be down a goal with 20 minutes to go. They threw numbers forward with several good sequences and corners but could not beat Westberg. The match ended 2-1.
Atlanta’s season is over. Toronto FC are heading to their third MLS Cup in four years. They will for the third time play Seattle Sounders, but for the first time on the road.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 31, 2019
TFC injuries: Toronto were hampered significantly in this game. Again Jozy Altidore was not in the lineup. Center back Omar Gonzalez was on the bench. Toronto made all their subs by the 68th minute with Chris Mavinga sustaining a knock and playing through it.
Josef comes up short: Or rather, Atlanta came up short. They had more of the ball. They had way more shots and the better attacking talent. And they couldn’t finish. Josef Martinez missed the PK and only had one more quality shot. This performance was on theme for this club under Frank de Boer of being the better side but it not leading to results against compact quality opposition.
Nick DeLeon magic: Nick DeLeon has now scored five goals in the playoffs, almost everyone of them being spectacular and decisive. The substitute was the difference maker a hardworking and understaffed Toronto side and Greg Vanney needed.