National Newswatch

Toronto FC's home opener went south quickly Saturday with the New York Red Bulls running wild in the first half en route to a 4-1 win.

Lewis Morgan needed just 23 minutes to record a hat-trick with New York captain Aaron Long accounting for the other goal as the Red Bulls did all their scoring in the first 45 minutes. Polish forward Patryk Klimala contributed three assists.

Toronto (0-1-1) started well, threatening on offence, but was cut open in transition and found itself trailing 2-0 after 24 minutes thanks to Morgan's finishing and some slack defending. Jesus Jimenez pulled one back for Toronto but the Red Bulls (2-0-0) were ruthless in punishing the TFC defence, adding two more before the break.

The visitors' threat on the counter-attack was demonstrated by the fact that they scored on four of their five shots on target in the first half while having just 32.8 per cent of the ball.

"A really tough day," Toronto coach Bob Bradley said after his home debut. "We can't speak about positives because at the end of it all, it's just not good enough in the balance.

"You look hard at it and work through it and be ready for next week."

The score could have been more lopsided had Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono not made several big saves in the second half. Another Morgan goal, in the 87th minute, was ruled offside.

The announced crowd of 23,121 was the largest for a TFC home game since the 2020 home opener, when 26,171 saw Toronto edge New York City FC 1-0 on March 7. The sporting world ground to a halt the next week due to the pandemic.

Adding to the Toronto pain was some smack from the Red Bulls' official Twitter account in the wake of recording back-to-back road wins the first two games of the season for the first time in franchise history,

"All gas, no brakes," it gloated at halftime.

"Do you have to declare three points on the customs form?" it tweeted post-match.

Toronto finished with no points despite 67.3 per cent of possession and seven corners to the visitors' five. The Red Bulls outshot TFC 13-6 (9-4 in shots on target).

There was a smattering of boos at halftime and the final whistle.

Toronto's Mexican defender Carlos Salcedo was yellow-carded in the 61st minute for a nasty lunging challenge on Klimala deep in TFC territory, with referee Rubiel Vazquez opting not to reach for the red after reviewing the play on a pitch-side monitor at the behest of video assistant referee, Canadian Carol Anne Chenard.

While the crowd looked more normal in size, the playing surface was a spotty mess with the patchy grass showing the ill-effects of a winter with a sting in its tail. It was a breezy two degrees Celsius, feeling like minus-four at the 2 p.m. ET kickoff.

The crowd had little to cheer about.

The Red Bulls went ahead in the 17th minute against the run of play when Jonathan Osorio lost the ball near midfield. Frankie Amaya accelerated past Michael Bradley, Bob's son, and found Klimala, who sent the ball over to an unmarked Morgan in the middle of the penalty box. The Scottish winger's curling shot beat Bono.

Toronto's defence was cut open again in the 24th minute, with Morgan beating Bono low to the corner from just outside the penalty box on what was essentially a two-on-one. Klimala played provider again.

Jimenez cut the lead to one in the 35th minute after a slashing run by Luca Petrasso carved open the Red Bulls defence and found Jimenez. The Spanish striker dribbled past onrushing goalkeeper Carlos Coronel and slotted the ball past two defenders into the goal.

For the 21-year-old Petrasso, a former TFC ball boy, it was an assist in his Toronto debut. For Jimenez, it was a first MLS goal in his BMO Field debut.

Toronto's defence was missing in action in the 40th minute on yet another counter-attack after a Toronto corner. Klimala bodied Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty out of the way near midfield and then muscled past Jacob Shaffelburg, setting up a two-on-zero that Lewis finished for his hat trick.

"A real killer," Bob Bradley said of the goal.

He said the team could have regrouped at the half had they managed to keep the deficit at 2-1.

It was 4-2 two minutes later as Amaya's free kick found an unmarked Long, whose header beat Bono.

Toronto is still a work in progress under Bob Bradley, with Italian star Lorenzo Insigne — who is expected in July — and several other as-yet unidentified reinforcements still to come.

Marshall-Rutty and Shaffelburg are learning a new position in fullback, with flashes of real flair mixed in with some errant decision-making in a position that offers a fine balance between attacking and defending.

Bob Bradley has shown confidence in his youngsters in this early stage of the season.

"I have confidence that we're going to become a really good team," he said.

Bob Bradley brought off Michael Bradley and Salcedo with 10 minutes remaining, with defender Lukas MacNaughton making his TFC debut.

TFC opened the season last weekend with a 1-1 tie at FC Dallas. The Red Bulls, who finished 20 points ahead of Toronto in last year's standings, won 3-1 at San Jose.

Bob Bradley made two changes to his starting 11 with centre back Shane O'Neill and midfielder Petrasso coming in for Chris Mavinga and Deandre Kerr, both of whom were substituted at halftime. O'Neill, a free-agent signing from Seattle in the off-season, made his first Toronto start.

Petrasso started well, combining with Shaffelburg to threaten down the left flank. But Shaffelburg limped off just before halftime, holding the back of his thigh. He was replaced by Ifunanyachi Achara to start the second half with Petrasso moving into left back.

Kadin Chung came on in the 70th minute for his TFC debut.

Toronto is now winless in eight straight games (0-4-4) in league play dating back to early October. The Red Bulls, meanwhile, are unbeaten in their last six meetings (4-0-2) with Toronto.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 5, 2012

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
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