LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Jesús Medina scored in the fifth minute, Valentín Castellanos doubled the lead early in the second half and Maxi Moralez provided the clinching goal late as New York City FC beat Toronto FC 3-1 on Sunday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the MLS is Back tournament.
NYCFC was the last team to qualify for the knockout round of the tournament thanks to Houston’s draw against the LA Galaxy in the next-to-last match of the group stage. A late Galaxy goal knocked out the Dynamo and kept NYCFC in the tournament as the final third-place team to advance.
Despite being the last team in, NYCFC was the dominant side in the round of 16 matchup. NYCFC had just two goals all season and started with four straight losses before beating Inter Miami in the final group stage game. They doubled that goal total in less than an hour against Toronto and got a bit of revenge for losing to the Reds in last year’s MLS Cup playoffs.
NYCFC will play either Portland or FC Cincinnati in the quarterfinals next Saturday.
“We were talking the whole tournament about discipline, we were talking about togetherness, we were talking about doing it for 95 minutes. The team effort today was unbelievable,” NYCFC coach Ronny Deila said. “Everybody worked everything they could.”
Toronto won Group C behind a win and two draws, and the five goals from young striker Ayo Akinola. But Akinola missed Sunday’s match with tightness in his hamstring and Toronto’s attack only challenged NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson on rare occasions.
Toronto’s Patrick Mullins scored in the 87th minute off an assist from Jozy Altidore, but it was just the Reds second shot on goal in the match.
“You play these knockout games and obviously things are going to be tight,” Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley said. “You know every part of the game is so important and we we got off to a really bad start and from there never really found a good way in the game.”
Medina was the recipient of a poor clearance by Bradley and was set up by Anton Tinnerholm’s pass. Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg got his hands on the shot but couldn’t keep it out of the net.
Another clever assist led to Castellanos’ goal in the 55th minute. Moralez chipped a blind pass into space and ended up at the feet of Castellanos. He made a quick cut on defender Omar Gonzalez and his shot grazed off Westberg’s fingers and into the net.
Moralez added the clinching goal in the 81st minute as Toronto was caught on a counter attack.