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Late Inter Miami penalty sinks 100man Toronto FC as losing streak grows

Written by on September 14, 2021

TORONTO — Christian Makoun’s 95th-minute penalty lifted Inter Miami CF to a 1-0 win over 10-man Toronto FC on Tuesday, extending TFC’s losing streak to six and winless run to nine (0-7-2).

The penalty was called after Chris Mavinga took down Makoun in the box.

There was confusion in the 87th minute when Toronto substitute Jacob Shaffelburg appeared to have scored, knocking in the ball after goalkeeper Nick Marsman was forced into a poor, emergency clearance under pressure. The ball went straight to Shaffelburg, whose shot appeared to cross the line before a diving Marsman bundled it out.

The Toronto substitutes, warming up on the goal-line, all thought it was a goal but it was eventually deemed a corner. MLS does not have goal-line technology.

Miami (9-9-5) failed to take advantage until the dying seconds after defender Kemar Lawrence was sent off late in the first half for preventing a goal-scoring opportunity. Toronto (3-15-6) acquitted itself well despite being a man down, hanging on for the single point.

TFC is now 0-2-4 at BMO Field since returning home from its pandemic-prompted sojourn in the U.S.

With thunderstorms in the forecast and capacity capped at 15,000 by COVID, the game drew a sparse crowd announced at 7,970 to BMO Field.

The contest, Miami’s first MLS outing in Canada, featured two clubs headed in different directions.

Toronto, mired in the 27-team league’s basement, has not won since July 24, a 2-1 decision in Chicago.

TFC’s fall has been sudden. Last year, in a pandemic-shortened season, it finished runner-up in the Supporters’ Shield standings at 12-5-5. Calculated over a full season, at its rate of 1.91 points a game, Toronto would have finished with 64 points.

TFC came into Tuesday’s game with 15 points through 23 matches and was on pace for a 22-point season. Only five teams in MLS history have had fewer points at the same stage of the season, most recently D.C. United in 2013 (13 points).

After a 2-8-2 start, Miami is unbeaten in six (5-0-1) and had only lost one of its last 11 outings (7-1-3). 

Phil Neville’s team has recorded four straight clean sheets.

Miami was coming off 1-0 wins over Cincinnati and Columbus and looking for its first-ever three-game MLS win streak.

Both sides were on a short turnaround, having played Saturday. Miami against Columbus while TFC lost 2-0 at FC Cincinnati, which came into the contest winless in 12 games (0-5-7). 

Miami had taken 21 of a possible 30 points over its previous 10 games and, in ninth place in the East, was just two points below the playoff line. Toronto had collected six (1-6-3) over the same period and was 16 points out of the playoffs. 

The visitors got a break via video review when an offside call negated a 14th-minute penalty and red card to Brazilian Gregore, the Miami captain, for pulling Richie Laryea down as he sliced into the penalty box on a quick free kick by Yeferson Soteldo.

There was no such reprieve for Lawrence in the 37th minute, sent off by referee Ramy Touchan for pulling down Robbie Robinson from behind just outside the penalty box after former TFC midfielder Jay Chapman’s through ball carved open the Toronto defence and put the Miami man in alone.

Captain Michael Bradley dropped back into centre back. 

Toronto had most of the possession early on, moving the ball quickly. But Miami stuck to its shape and began to find its rhythm as the half wore on.

On the sidelines, Toronto coach Javier Perez showed his frustration as Soteldo was driven back into his own half where he lost possession.

Achara just missed a Shaffelburg cross in front of goal in the 19th minute. At the other end, Toronto ‘keeper Alex Bono made a fine one-handed save on U.S. youth international Indiana Vassilev in the 41st after a Rodolfo Pizarro setup.

Laryea had a chance in the 58th minute on a quick Toronto counter-attack but his shot, after a nifty backheel from Soteldo, went right at Marsman.

Soteldo’s long-range shot went just wide in the 77th.

Both teams were missing marquee talent.

Toronto was without two of its three designated players with reigning league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo missing a second straight game due to a lower body injury. Star striker Jozy Altidore is recovering from ankle surgery. 

Soteldo, the other DP, led the TFC attack. Shaffelburg added to the offence after coming on in the fifth minute for Tsubasa Endoh who suffered an apparent leg injury trying to chase a ball down.

Miami star striker Gonzalo Higuain, the team’s leading scorer with nine goals, did not dress while fellow designated player Blaise Matuidi was part of a depleted six-man bench for Miami, which hosts the New York Red Bulls on Friday. The French international came on in the 82nd minute.

Federico Higuain, Gonzalo’s older brother came on in the 55th minute.

Perez made five changes to the team that lost in Cincinnati with Bono starting in goal, after giving way to Quentin Westberg the last four games. Lawrence, Soteldo, Laryea and Jonathan Osorio, who were on the bench last time after returning from international duty, all returned to the starting lineup.

Lawrence started at centre back alongside Chris Mavinga. 

Miami won 3-1 when the clubs met in August in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. 

Toronto hosts Nashville SC on Saturday, the third of seven games in 22 days.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 14, 2021.

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press