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Toronto 1-1 Red Bulls: tale of two halves in Ontario

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Dominant first half and Patryk Klimala goal undone by second half fade and Priso equalizer

New York Red Bulls v Toronto FC Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

For the second game in a row, the New York Red Bulls saw a lead slip away in the second half of a game they otherwise controlled.

Young academy product Ralph Priso scored for Toronto in the 62nd minute, cancelling out Patryk Klimala’s opener right after halftime to end the Red Bulls first visit to Canada since 2019 in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night. The young makeshift New York team dominated the first half proceedings but yet again struggled to maintain intensity over the full 90 minutes to collect three points.

After pre-match fears of key Red Bulls players having to sit out the trip to Toronto (which only recently relaxed COVID-19 regulations to allow sporting events) due to visa issues, Gerhard Struber was able to roll out the same lineup he attempted to play in Saturday night’s cancelled game against Miami. One notable absence was Cristian Cásseres, who finished Wednesday night as an unused substitute in a decision Struber said later on was motivated by having him fresh for the weekend match against DC United.

The first half played out almost entirely on New York’s terms as Toronto was smothered in their own half, frequently giving the ball away to the swarming Red Bulls in dangerous areas. Wikelman Carmona was the most frequent beneficiary of the opportunities created by Toronto’s erratic passing and the hard work of his forwards Patryk Klimala and Fábio, but the teenage Venezuelan playmaker struggled to finish clinically.

The Red Bulls nonetheless seemed primed to eventually score as they exhibited some of the most fluid possession play seen so far under Struber’s tenure. The momentum was rewarded immediately after the opening of the second half. After an incisive Tom Edwards long ball found Fábio, the Brazilian was rejected by Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono, but the rebound fell to a poaching Patryk Klimala, who finished low in traffic to give New York a 1-0 lead.

However from that point the game would slowly turn in Toronto’s favor. A series of minor injury stoppages killed much of the Red Bulls’ rhythm, and Toronto eventually found their breakthrough at the end of an otherwise sleepy attack. Toronto designated player Yeferson Soteldo, who found more space in the second half after being double-teamed by the New York backline in the first, sent a far cross that Carlos Coronel struggled to corral. The ball bounced to unmarked substitute midfielder Ralph Priso, who whacked the ball into the gaping net to draw the game level.

Toronto would spend the rest of the game on the front foot, but outside of a brief scuffle between Alejandro Pozuelo and John Tolkin followed by histrionics from Soteldo towards referee Silviu Petrescu at the final whistle, there was no late drama in a game that ended in a tie.

A disappointed Gerhard Struber lamented another set of dropped road points and uncharacteristically singled out individual players as part of the problem, though without naming names.

“I am not happy with just a point,” said Struber. “We expected to win this game and should have won this game, but in the end I don’t see the hunger for goals. I don’t see us keeping up the intensity against the ball for 90 minutes.”

“So much of our game and our identity is teamwork. In these games on the road, we need every player at their personal limit. If we have 1, 2, 3 players who aren’t giving everything over 90 minutes, then we cannot win these games.”

“I think in the second half we are not as compact. Soteldo creates danger with his dribbles, and we were able to have 2-on-1 against him in the first half, but in the second half we lose focus and that did not always happen.”

Goalscorer Patryk Klimala shared his coach’s regrets about dropping achievable points as well as his confidence about the team’s quality and performance on the night.

“We were the better team, we should have won this game,” said the never-bashful Polish youth international. “This is now two games in a row where we have a lead and then concede a goal. We are not happy because it is now four points lost from two games (where we played well.)”

As with the aforementioned decision not to deploy Casseres, Struber clearly has his eye on Sunday’s match in Washington against D.C. United as what could be a keynote moment in the Red Bulls’ inconsistent season. Rarely does Struber express as much specific dissatisfaction with his team’s performance as he did postgame on Wednesday, and at the very least the Austrian seems to have learned a bit about where his team needs improvement ahead of a crucial fixture against another young, hungry Eastern Conference squad.

“Looking ahead to DC, we need every player from the 1st minute to the 90th minute with the right attitude and the right intensity to win on the road.”