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NYCFC thrown off by no-goal call, allows equalizer in draw with Toronto FC

Referee David Gantar speaks with New York City

Referee David Gantar speaks with New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, right, after an MLS soccer game against Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium on, Saturday, May 15, 2021. in New York. Credit: AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

A referee’s call didn’t entirely cost New York City FC three points against Toronto FC, but the team's reaction to it may have been the difference.

After going ahead in the second half, an early whistle on a freak deflection blew dead what should have been NYCFC’s second goal before the ball crossed the goal line. In the ensuing minutes, City lost its defensive shape, and Toronto capitalized on one of its few shots on target to level the score in a 1-1 draw Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.

"I think we controlled it for 90 minutes, but then we get robbed by the ref, that's for sure," said NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila. "I can't understand it."

The match went south for NYCFC (2-2-1, 8 points) in the 70th minute. Toronto FC keeper Alex Bono attempted to clear the ball after a save, but instead punted it into the back of the head of Jesús Medina. As Medina crumbled to the turf just outside the box, referee David Gantar blew his whistle immediately, even as the ball floated toward the goal and eventually over the line. NYCFC players appealed to Gantar to no avail as a limited-capacity crowd let the official hear its thoughts on the matter.


With NYCFC reeling from the no-goal call, Toronto went on the attack, eventually finding substitute Jacob Shaffelburg with space on the left side. The 21-year-old shot to the far post past a diving Sean Johnson to level the score in the 74th minute and snag a point.

While Deila said Gantar was humble and admitted his mistake on the no-goal, the coach also took exception with a no-call on a possible foul in the build-up to Toronto's score.

"One thing is to do a mistake, and I understand people get crazy and irritated but it means a lot for us, they're working every day, preparing 24/7 for playing football games, and when you get robbed in that way then of course you react, that's human," Deila said.

After missing a few chances in the first half, NYCFC got its goal in the 53rd minute. Gudi Thórarinsson, who scored on a free kick against FC Cincinnati earlier this season, lined up for a chance at goal from outside the box. His attempt skipped off the turf as it reached Bono, hitting the keeper in the chest and bouncing into play for Medina, who didn’t miss. But City rarely got close the rest of the way.

NYCFC took the field as shorthanded as it’s been this season. Starters Maxi Moralez and Anton Tinnerholm, as well as reserve midfielder Alfredo Morales, all were left out of the side with injuries that limited their training this week. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi was a sensible replacement for Moralez, but Tinnerholm’s absence led Ronny Deila to play 19-year-old homegrown midfielder Andres Jasson as a wingback to mixed results.

City’s depth was tested further early in the match as centerback Alexander Callens pulled up lame in the 13th minute with a hamstring injury. Sebastien Ibeagha entered to play in a back three on the left, not his natural side of the field.

Valentín Castellanos, who signed a new five-year contract with NYCFC this week, was the club’s most dangerous player in the first half with a handful of chances, but failed to put his shots on target, and that inability to bury a flat Toronto FC early came back to cost the home side.

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