C.J. Sapong scored the lone goal of the match. (Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
There is a long-time soccer axiom:
Beware of the opening and closing five minutes of a half.
Apparently, New York City FC did not adhere to that and paid dearly.
C.J. Sapong, in his Toronto FC debut, tallied only 22 seconds into the second half to lift the hosts to a 1-0 lead, an advantage they held the rest of the way at BMO Field on Saturday night.
It is one of the worst times in the match where you can concede,” City captain and midfielder James Sands said.
The result dropped NYCFC (15 points) to 4-3-3 while Toronto (12) improved to 2-2-6.
City still hasn’t won on the road this season, dropping to 0-3-2.
“We know that we’re not producing the same away as we are at home,” said head coach Nick Cushing, who started Santi Rodriguez at striker on Saturday. Rodriguez secured a brace in last week’s home win, but could not find the net against Toronto.
“We have to produce more with a mindset. We know at the moment our home record is good, or away record isn’t good enough for isn’t where we want it to be. For the team that we want to be and we have to solve that. It’s disappointing that we didn’t approach the game in the way that we wanted to today.”
Cushing wasn’t finished.
“It’s crazy to say this now but we have to be a team that when we’re not playing well develops the mentality to correct that in the game,” he added. “We’re not always going to have the control of games like we do at home. We didn’t solve the problem in the first half. We turned the ball over too cheaply and as a team we have to correct that in the game. We have to have the leaders and the leadership in each individual to correct that and to get a foothold in the game and then to you know, to not have to suffer.”
The opening kickoff of the match was delayed to a fire alarm going off as the teams had to return to their respective locker rooms before they had an opportunity to play.
Early on, Sapong, who joined the team after a trade from Nashville SC this past week, let City know he was for real as he volleyed a shot off the palms of goalkeeper Luis Barraza.
Toronto certainly was on its front foot as Barraza saved shots by Lorenzo Insigne and Mark-Anthony Kaye to keep the match scoreless.
The Cityzens’ first real chance came in the 40th minute as Matias Pellegrini’s attempt was saved by former NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson, and Keaton Parks was denied the by the netminder at the near post.
Richie Laryea created the lone goal of the match, running to the byline and squaring to Sapong, who tapped it into an empty net.
“I would say that from the start, our press wasn’t right,” Sands said. “I haven’t watched it back but they were able to play off Sapong, which was something we wanted to avoid. They get a switch, then they work it to [Federico] Bernardeschi. He is a very dangerous player 1 v 1.
“We talk about the five minutes to start or end the game and then the five minutes before or after halftime. Those are kind of the swing moments and when you concede in one of those, it makes it very difficult for the rest of the game”
Toronto tried for an insurance tally but Barraza knocked away Insigne’s curling shot and then stopped Brandon Servania’s attempt
During the final 10 minutes of the match, it did not look like NYCFC had all its players on the same page.
“t’s not helpful when you see players and they go each other,” Cushing said. “It is solved in the dressing room. I’m not pleased and it doesn’t help because not only is it is it not a good reflection of all of the good work that we’re doing, it doesn’t help in the moment when you’re in a one goal game. You need to stay together and you need to really fight to get a point. We have to have these games where we don’t play so well but we get points on the road. I’m disappointed today the last 10 minutes we we didn’t we didn’t approach the game in the way that we should have.”
Which cost NYCFC three away points.