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NYCFC struggles in final third, falls to Toronto FC for second straight loss to open MLS season

Toronto FC forward Ifunanyachi Achara (99) heads his

Toronto FC forward Ifunanyachi Achara (99) heads his team's game winning goal as New York City FC midfielder James Sands (16) looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Toronto, Saturday March 7, 2020. Credit: AP/Chris Young

Two matches into its Major League Soccer campaign, New York City FC has failed to record a single point in the standings or a goal on the field.

NYCFC lost on the road for the second consecutive week, falling 1-0 to Toronto FC in a disappointing offensive effort at BMO Field in Toronto.

Coupled with last week’s loss to Columbus, NYCFC dropped the first two matches of the MLS season for the first time in club history.

Toronto scored the game’s lone goal late in the contest. After a failed NYCFC clearance, Alejandro Pozuelo received the ball near the top of the box and pushed play outside. NYCFC fullback Ronald Matarrita got a piece of the cross by Richie Laryea, but the ball flew toward the back post and Ifunanyachi Achara, playing his first ever MLS match, was there to head it across the line in the 81st minute.

NYCFC keeper Sean Johnson had an impressive performance for the second consecutive week, keeping his club in the match with eight saves but receiving little help from his teammates at the other end.

City played a strong lineup in Toronto even with a match looming Wednesday against Mexican club Tigres UANL in the CONCACAF Champions League. Still, NYCFC’s attacking group had little success for much of the night. Despite largely controlling possession for sections of the first half, NYCFC struggled to create chances in the final third, recording just two shot attempts in the first 45 minutes. At night's end, City managed just nine shots with only three on target.

“I’m disappointed in the first half. For 20 minutes of the second half we were looking in better shape and we were a better team than we were in the first,” said head coach Ronny Deila. “We have to play like that for 90 minutes if we’re going to get three points.”

Maxi Moralez looked out of sorts playing in a midfield three with Keaton Parks and Alexander Ring. Normally a facilitator up top, Moralez spent much of his time dropping deep to receive the ball, but did little to successfully progress it to other attacking players.

“It was a tough game against a good opponent. I think we fought hard, everybody put in their full effort today,” Parks said. “We didn’t create as many chances as we would like to and then they capitalized on one of theirs, so we lost, it’s how it goes.”

Deila put his faith in struggling designated player Jesús Medina for the fourth consecutive match including Champions League play, but the winger had little impact once again, offering little in terms of finishing or playmaking. Alexandru Mitrita also failed to have much of an impact from the outside, while striker Héber was often left out of the action with a lack of quality passes his way.

Deila finally went to his bench in the 72nd minute, bringing Valentín Castellanos and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi into the game for Medina and Mitrita. Moralez made way for Gary Mackay-Steven shortly after. The substitutes brought a new energy level, but once Toronto went ahead, City failed to get another chance on target.

Toronto FC’s best chance of the first half found the back of the net, but a VAR review took it off the board. Achara got a step on Anton Tinnerholm and redirected a ball past Johnson, but was ruled offside following the review.

When he got on the right side of the loose ball late in the match, no check was needed to confirm the 22-year-old’s first MLS goal.

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