Kemar Lawrence made an ill-advised tackle that led to a Toronto penalty kick. (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)
TORONTO — Go figure.
For the first time since April 6 the Red Bull had their first-team back four together.
So, what happens? They surrendered two goals in the opening 26 minutes and are forced to chase the game the rest of the way, which turned into a 3-1 loss to Toronto FC at BMO Field Wednesday night.
The defeat left the fourth-place Red Bulls 31 points at 9-8-4 while Toronto FC (8-8-5, 29) climbed into a sixth-place tie with idle New York City FC in the Eastern Conference.
On paper, the Red Bulls backline looked quite strong as Aaron Long and Tim Parker manned the center back spots and Kemar Lawrence and Michael Amir Murillo were at the left and right outside back slots, respectively.
Yet, two defensive blunders by the Red Bulls led to the loss.
Through the Red Bulls went down to defeat, they outplayed Toronto for long stretches in the first half, but were held in check by some spectacular saves by goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
Toronto drew first blood in the sixth minute as former Red Bulls forward Jozy Altidore demonstrated a deft move with center back Tim Parker on his back. Facing away from the goal some nine yards out, Altidore redirected Tsubasa Endoh’s pass from the right flank via his backheel past goalkeeper Luis Robles for a 1-0 edge.
The Reds doubled their advantage in the 26th minute after Lawrence made an ill-advised tackle of Richie Laryea on the right side of the penalty area. The foul was insidious enough to be a yellow card and a penalty kick for Toronto.
Alejandro Pozuelo fired home the ensuing penalty as Robles barely moved as Toronto grabbed a 2-0 lead.
The Red Bulls sliced the margin in half in the 63rd minute as second-half substitute Derrick Etienne, Jr. made a nifty move on the left side of the penalty area to find Tom Barlow some side yards out for the goal.
Toronto, however, regained its two-goal margin in the 72nd minute when Murillo for some reason did not knock the ball out of bounds while battling Altidore for the ball in the penalty area. He slipped to the ground, lost the ball and Ashton Morgan tallied only his second career MLS goal from close range to boost the hosts to a 3-1 lead.