A 2-1 NYCFC loss at the hands of the Canadian side shocked the fans of a club that set a record for points in a season, its best ever in five years of play. Despite the in-season success, none of the players felt it mattered in the end.
Both Toronto goals came off of defensive miscues, a feeble header by Maxime Chanot back toward goalkeeper Sean Johnson was picked off by Toronto early in the second half to open the scoring.
After Ismael Tajouri-shradi’s equalizer and the match seemingly destined for extra time, a heavy challenge by Ronald Matarrita brought down Richie Laryea, conceding a penalty in the 89th minute.
Toronto newcomer Alejandro Pozuelo stepped up to the spot. With the game on the line, he reached into his bag of tricks, floating a “Panenka” over the diving NYCFC goalkeeper, just as the Spaniard had done in his debut, a 4-0 win over NYCFC in the early weeks of the season.
NYCFC players looked back on what had been a remarkable season, but no longer pulling positives from it. Captain Alex Ring completely brushed away the events of the regular season.
“Nine months were for nothing because we weren’t ready today,” remarked the Finnish international. “They deserved the win in the end because they were the better team. It’s really hard to admit, everybody knows what the stakes were. It’s all for nothing because we didn’t go to the next round.”
“What happened in the season, everyone will forget,” Tajouri-Shradi added. “The whole season was good but it doesn’t matter, we lost.”
The unexpected end of the 2019 campaign left nothing but questions moving forward for the New York club. With the playoff match relocated to Citi Field, the club’s stadium woes were front and center.
It’s clear to fans, players and management that NYCFC can not continue to play in baseball stadiums. And while the cogs of land development turn slowly in New York City, fans still feel that progress is taking far too long, especially for a club in one of the most prominent sports markets in the nation.
However, despite the lack of an announcement, stadium plans are creeping forward in both the Bronx and Queens. A recent poll of South Bronx residents found that two-thirds of those polled agreed a soccer arena near Yankee Stadium would be a good idea.
As for the club’s future, the offseason looms menacingly. Coach Domè Torrent may return to parent club Manchester City and his boss Pep Guardiola, and Keaton Parks may return to his club Benfica.
Anton Tinnerholm, who signed a multi-year contract extension, isn’t quite ready to look forward to the new season.
“We’ve been fighting so hard, every single training session, every single game, every minute,” he said. “It comes down to one game, and we weren’t strong enough to win that one game. I don’t want to talk about next season, it’s just a big, big disappointment.”
“It’s disappointing because you put so much work into a long year, 34-game season, postseason, international breaks, open cup, all that jazz, everything,” said goalkeeper Johnson. “First place in the East, best point total, all that goes out the window if you can’t make anything of it. The offseason is here, and it’s a harsh reality for a lot of guys who haven’t experienced that yet.
“For those who were here last year it was just a repeat,” he added. “We fell short again.”