Luis Robles was at his best and then some for the Red Bulls. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
TORONTO — Luis Robles was at his best when he was left to his own devices Sunday.
The Red Bulls goalkeeper made several point-blank saves at the start of the second to help preserve his team’s 1-0 MLS victory over Toronto FC at BMO Field.
Robles’ stops included a penalty-kick save on Sebastian Giovinco in the 78th minute.
The win propelled the Red Bulls (10-4-2, 32 points) from fourth to second place over New York City FC, 3-2 away losers at the Chicago Fire, in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls trail Atlanta United FC (11-3-4, 37) by five points, but have two games in hand on the conference leaders. Toronto FC, the defending MLS Cup champions, continues to struggle after a disastrous start with a 4-9-3 record and 10th-place standing in the conference out of 11 teams.
“Not our best game by any means,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch said. “The weather was a complete factor. Being so hot we made a lot of simple mistakes we don’t normally make.
“You have to really tip your hat to Luis for not only the penalty save but all the other saves he made today. You know you go through a season sometimes where you don’t play your best but to find a way to get a big result on the road.”
Left back Kemar Lawrence scored the lone goal of the match in the fourth minute as his shot from 22 yards went through the hands of U.S. international goalkeeper Alex Bono after the hosts failed to clear Sean Davis’ corner kick. It was Lawrence’s second goal in as many games and fourth in 81 career MLS games with New York.
“A great ball came up and I tried to relax and get a good hit on it,” Lawrence said. “The keeper kind of made a mistake and Bradley did a good job with a screen so that helped. I’m just trying to get my chances on target and coach says if you don’t shoot you don’t score so.”
The Red Bulls were fortunate to leave the stadium with a win as Toronto FC dominated much of the match. Their intensity dropped off greatly after Lawrence’s as it turned into the Robles show, especially in the opening minute of the second half.
That’s when Robles took center stage when Toronto FC players found themselves in 1 v 1 situations with him.
Only a minute into the half, the keeper denied Jordan Hamilton with a chest save.
Six minutes later, Robles made a kick save on U.S. national team captain Michael Bradley.
In the 56th minute, Robles frustrated Delgado from close range before knocking away John Osorio’s attempt from seven yards out on the left side in the 75th minute.
Robles couldn’t get a handle on the ball and during a scramble for it, center back Tim Parker was ruled to have touched the ball with his right hand as he fell to the ground. After double checking with the Video Assistant Referee, referee Hilario Grajeda ruled a penalty kick.
Giovinco, who has forged a reputation as being lethal in set pieces, sent his attempt to the left side, but Robles guessed correctly and knocked the ball away with both hands.
“When the penalty is called you start to calculate in your mind how you’re going to go about this and before the game I had already decided that I was going to go this way,” Robles said. “It turns out a penalty was called and my mind was already made up. I was fortunate that the ball was in a place that I could save it because even if I guess right, if the ball is blasted hard enough it still goes in.”
Robles’ heroics continued into stoppage time as he punched out Giovinco’s curling attempt from the left side two minutes into added time.
NY – Kemar Lawrence 2 (Aaron Long) 4′
TFC – Eriq Zavaleta (caution, unsporting behavior) 27′
NY – Tim Parker (caution, unsporting behavior) 35′
NY – Tyler Adams (caution, unsporting behavior) 53′
NY – Marc Rzatkowski (caution, unsporting behavior) 77′
New York Red Bulls: Luis Robles ©; Connor Lade, Tim Parker, Aaron Long, Kemar Lawrence, Sean Davis, Tyler Adams, Kaku (Marc Rzatkowski, 65′), Alex Muyl (Derrick Etienne, Jr., 60′), Florian Valot, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Ethan Kutler, 90+5′)
TOTAL SHOTS: 15; SHOTS ON GOAL: 2; FOULS: 16; OFFSIDE: 6; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 8
Toronto FC: Alexander Bono; Eriq Zavaleta (Ryan Telfer, 80′), Jason Hernandez (Ashtone Morgan, 34′), Justin Morrow, Nick Hagglund, Nicolas Hasler, Jonathan Osorio, Marco Delgado (Jay Chapman, 81′), Michael Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, Sebastian Giovinco
TOTAL SHOTS: 13; SHOTS ON GOAL: 8; FOULS: 10; OFFSIDE: 5; CORNER KICKS: 8; SAVES: 1
Referee: Chico Grajeda
Assistant Referees: Kyle Atkins, Jonathan Johnson
4th Official: Silviu Petrescu
VAR: Jon Freemon