EAST HARTFORD, Ct. (November 2, 2020) — On a damp, rainy and windy fall evening in Hartford, Toronto FC came from behind to run out 2-1 winners over Inter Miami at Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium.
The Rosanegro’s lone goal was scored by Blaise Matuidi, whose low drive in the 42nd minute found the back of the net. That narrow lead at halftime held until the Reds’ Ayo Akinola, back in the lineup, pulled TFC level in the 55th minute. The game-winner came coutesy of Spanish forward and TFC standout Alejandro Pozuelo in the 84th from the penalty spot after Richie Laryea drove into the box and was taken down by Inter’s Ben Sweat, who also picked up a yellow card as well.
It was Matuidi’s first goal in MLS.
With the Philadelphia Union having lost earlier in the day away to Columbus Crew SC, the three points brings Toronto back level at the top of the league, setting up a dramatic Decision Day next Sunday.
Toronto started the game well, enjoying much of the early possession. Mismi started a makeshift backline due to the absences of Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez and Andre Reyes, both of whom had to sit out due to yellow card accumulations. Miami deployed a five back line up and sat relatively deep, challenging Toronto to break them down. Aside from the occasional flash, neither side was able to really craft a clear chance in the opening passages.
“They had, especially in the first half, a lot of numbers behind the ball,” detailed Greg Vanney post-match. “For us the possessions were too slow, our movement was too slow, the ball was moving too slow.”
“Those are the things we talked about at half. We needed to be more dynamic, our decisions needed to be faster, the ball needed to move faster,” he continued. “Because of that none of our attacks came to much of anything and then we’re turning over balls and they were able to eventually get themselves into the game. They started to find their possessions and started to find their control of the game through the latter part of the half.”
“Second half we brought on another forward to try to occupy more of those centre-backs, try to tuck in our wide guys a little bit more to put some numbers ahead of the ball and then we started to get more control of the game,” Vanney explained. “Our movement was sharper, the passes were sharper. It still got open at times, but we did enough at the end of the day to get a result. And with everything that transpired – Philly losing, getting a result – it means it goes down to the last game, which is what we were hoping for today.”
It was Akinola’s ninth goal of the season. “It’s just me keeping my style of game, honestly,” explained the 20-year-old of his breakout campaign. “I don’t try to do stuff that is not in my favour or not the way I play. Sticking to how I play makes it simple for me and what I need to do in front of goal.”
“The composure and the calmness is like that off the field as well,” he continued. “Him playing his game, keeping it simple, was a huge difference for us. He didn’t try to force it and try to do the extra stuff. Just kept it nice and simple.”
Miami came close to regaining the lead late in the second half. Gonzalo Higuaín got on the ball in space on the left and cut back in-field, away from goal, to unleash a troublesome strike. With Toronto goalkeeper Quenton Westberg defenseless, Higuaín’s shot careened off the post and away from the net.
As for Inter Miami, despite their dismal inaugural year that has fallen light years away from their stated mission of “battling for a championship right out of the gate”, they are mathematically still alive for a place in the MLS Cup knockout tournament, which was expanded to ten teams from both the Eastern and Western conferences this season.
Inter Miami coach Diego Alonso, who must certainly be feeling the pressure mounting, had this to say about last night’s loss:
“I think that we did things well for moments in the second half. The penalty put them in the match a lot more because we were dominating the spaces and it was a calm match. I think the penalty put them back in it and from there they grew into the match and had more chances,” said manager Diego Alonso. “We’ll try to adjust for the next match. We’re still in a fight for the playoffs and we have two more matches. So, we have a lot of hope, we have dreams and we’ll try to achieve them.”
Internacional, currently outside of the playoff line, has one more game in this revised regular season, at home in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, Nov. 8, against last place Cincinnati. The Rosanegro will need to win and then hope that other results fall their way in order to take the pitch any more this year. Inter Miami now trails the Montréal Impact, Chicago Fire, and Atlanta United in the table going into the final matchday.