Metro holds on against Toronto, 1:1
May 19, 2017
On Friday night, two of the Eastern Conference's mightiest heavyweights over the past couple seasons faced off and battled each other to a 1:1 stalemate. In doing so, Metro managed to cool off Toronto FC's red-hot six game winning streak, but in truth the home side should feel fortunate to escape with the point. A heroic save from Luis Robles on a late penalty kick and a merciful offside call for interference as time wound down kept Metro from falling for the fourth straight game.
After seeing the stalwart 4-2-3-1 formation get ripped to shreds by Los Angeles last week, Jesse Marsch opted to deploy a two-forward system this time out, with Fredrik Gulbrandsen getting the start at forward in place of winger Daniel Royer. Sean Davis deservedly saw the bench as Mike Grella got his first start of the season. In the back, Michael Murillo was rotated in at right back at the expense of Connor Lade.
The breakthrough came for Metro against the run of play in the 38th minute. Sacha Kljestan took a free kick in the attacking third and beautifully placed a cross onto Gulbrandsen's head; the Norwegian's header back across the face of goal sublimely set up Bradley Wright-Phillips, who tallied with a highlight-reel bicycle kick.
Marsch opted to swap Gulbrandsen for Davis at the half, returning to a lone striker look, but the opposition's first change would be the one to impact the match. Following a Toronto free kick, Benoit Cheyrou slipped away from Murillo and Alex Muyl at the far post and nodded home from Chris Mavinga's deflection. Cheyrou was behind both Metro defenders when the pass took place, but Aaron Long didn't get the memo and kept the Frenchman onside.
The drama didn't end there, however. Damien Perrinelle conceded a penalty against Tosaint Ricketts in the 80th minute to the vehement protests of Robles and Kljestan. Referee Robert Sibiga clearly missed, willfully or otherwise, an obvious foul by Jozy Altidore in the run-up to the play that led to the penalty call. An unusually animated Robles calmed down long enough to stone the former Metro's penalty attempt and keep his team in the match.
Robles's efforts were nearly all for naught, as Ricketts rattled the crossbar in the 84th minute before appearing to score the game-winning goal five minutes later. The visitors celebrated raucously, but as they did the goal was correctly disallowed for offsides. Raheem Edwards was off on the initial shot, dummying over the ball and obscuring Robles's vision, leading to the rebound that Ricketts pounced upon.
While fans were treated to arguably the most exciting match of the season, this Metro side could ill afford to drop the two points at home. Problems persist in the midfield and backline; with no reinforcements on the immediate horizon and other teams around them surging as the season nears the midway point, the fight for a playoff spot looks more imposing this year than in prior campaigns.
Lineup: Robles, Lawrence, Long, Perrinelle, Murillo, Martins, Grella, Kljestan, Muyl, Gulbrandsen, Wright-Phillips. Subs: Davis, Royer, Veron.