Toronto Star

Playoffs out of reach after ugly loss

- NEIL DAVIDSON

Toronto FC was officially eliminated from MLS playoff contention in an ill-tempered 2-0 loss to Atlanta United on Saturday night.

Brazilian forward Luiz Araújo delivered the coup de grace with a goal in first-half stoppage time to give Atlanta its first victory at BMO Field in five visits (1-3-1). Marcelino Moreno added an insurance goal in the 97th minute, dancing around defender Kemar Lawrence before poking a shot past Alex Bono.

There was bad blood in the dying minutes with Toronto’s Brazilian fullback Auro and Atlanta’s Ezequiel Barco both sent off in the 84th minute for violent conduct after coming together. Auro seemed to accuse the Argentine of diving and it went downhill from there, with the two players jawing at each other forehead-to-forehead.

There was another clash as they left the field with other players rushing for a scrum at the tunnel. Referee Tim Ford reviewed the play at a sideline monitor before action resumed, but did not change his ruling.

The delays led to nine minutes of extra time with Brad Guzan making a remarkable reflex save off a Omar Gonzalez header to preserve the Atlanta victory.

Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore entered the game in the 61st minute after lengthy injury absences. But the two designated players were unable to spark a comeback.

Toronto (6-16-7) came into weekend play in 13th place in the Eastern Conference some 15 points below the playoff line. With five games remaining, it can only collect 15 points at best — while saddled with an anchor-like goal differenti­al.

Toronto which entered the league in 2007, missed the playoffs its first eight seasons. Since then, it had qualified for the post-season five of six years before the current campaign — making the MLS Cup final three times (winning in 2017). It missed out in 2018

Eighth-place Atlanta arrived on the cusp of the playoffs — 14 points ahead of Toronto. The win moves it up the standings.

TFC had been unbeaten in five games in all competitio­ns (4-0-1). It had lost six straight prior to that run. Its hopes now are pinned on the Canadian Championsh­ip with a Nov. 3 semifinal against Pacific FC.

 ?? JON BLACKER THE CANADIAN PRESS ?? Toronto FC’s Richie Laryea keeps possession of the ball in front of Atlanta United’s Amar Sejdic on Saturday night.
JON BLACKER THE CANADIAN PRESS Toronto FC’s Richie Laryea keeps possession of the ball in front of Atlanta United’s Amar Sejdic on Saturday night.

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