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MLS Post-Mortem: Red Bulls hold a lead, TFC forced to settle for a draw

Ismail Elfath was at the forefront of another game, NYRB found a way to keep a lead, and more from week 29.

MLS: Montreal Impact at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC were robbed by Ismail Elfath on Saturday. With the score 1-1 against the Union and TFC throwing numbers forward in an attempt to keep their Supporters’ Shield hopes alive, Jozy Altidore was clipped by C.J. Sapong in the box, which should have resulted in a penalty kick. Instead, Elfath whistled a foul on Altidore, prompting the striker to wildly punt the ball in frustration. Greg Vanney went ballistic, and even Union coach Jim Curtain admitted that some of his staffers felt it was penalty.

The game finished as a draw, clinching a playoff spot for TFC and keeping Philadelphia firmly in fourth-place.

Alejandro Bedoya started as a No. 10 instead of Roland Alberg in this game, and was effective for the Union. He chipped Clint Irwin beautifully for Philly’s only goal and was very good — particularly in the first half — at running forward and creating space for Sapong.

With Bedoya pushed higher up the field, Curtain started two defensive-minded midfielders behind him, and they were troublesome for TFC’s attack. They stayed compact and pressed Altidore at every opportunity, daring Jordan Hamilton to beat them, which he had trouble doing. It wasn’t until later in the second half that Toronto started finding space in the final third.

It was a good game-plan from Philly, and if it wasn’t for some Clint Irwin saves, the result could have been much different. It also could have been different if Elfath had made the correct call in stoppage time.

— The Red Bulls held off Montreal late and managed to keep a 1-0 lead all the way to the end, putting them in first in the Eastern Conference for the first time all season. Dax McCarty returned from injury and provided NYRB with steadiness out of the back, as well as a true No. 6 for the first time since McCarty went down a couple months ago.

They went into the game knowing they would need to be better at keeping leads late in games, and clearly they had a plan if such a situation were to arise. Instead of subbing on an extra defender and parking the bus with a 1-0 lead, they kept pressing, kept attacking, and most important kept possession.

This is their successful passes map from the 60th-minute on, when Daniel Royer scored the only goal:

They didn’t play narrow and put numbers behind the ball; they kept their attacking shape and continued to work the ball up the field the way they had when the game was still 0-0. That’s the way they should do it in the postseason.

— Portland became the latest victim of Houston’s quest to play spoiler for everyone in the league. The Dynamo have taken points from TFC, San Jose, Seattle, Sporting KC, RSL, and now the Timbers over the past month and a half, and it’s thanks to more organization, compactness, and actual tactics being put in place by Wade Barrett.

The Timbers have now fallen back to sixth in the conference. For whatever reason, they’ve struggled to get points on the road, not winning a single game away from Providence Park and losing nine of those 15 matches.

— “I don’t think it was entertaining at all. I think we dropped two points. I think we had this game under control and unfortunately one of the things we take most pride in, which is defense, let us down today.” Those were some of Pablo Mastroeni’s post-game comments after his Rapids let in a goal at the death against Vancouver and finished with a 3-3 draw.

“It’s definitely been the toughest result we’ve taken all year. I think we’ve played some fantastic stuff tonight...But the one thing we pride ourselves in is being difficult to play against, and tonight against 10 men, we were poor.”

Mastroeni did not mince words after Colorado’s mistake-prone defense let the Whitecaps back in the game over and over again despite Kendall Waston’s 55th-minute red card. The way that he was talking in that press conference, I would not have liked to have been in that locker room after the game.

— D.C. United dominated Orlando City thoroughly on Saturday, winning 4-1 and taking the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference after New England’s loss on Sunday. Columbus will have a realistic shot at the postseason if they can beat D.C. on Wednesday.

— Real Salt Lake settled for a 0-0 draw with FC Dallas, a perfectly acceptable result. Sporting KC picked up a huge three points in San Jose, while Jordan Morris and Seattle kept themselves in it with a 4-2 win over the Galaxy.