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Akinola goal lifts Toronto FC to fourth straight win as New England rues penalty miss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Toronto FC added to its road warrior reputation Wednesday, defeating the New England Revolution 1-0 for a fourth straight win while extending its unbeaten run to six.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Toronto FC added to its road warrior reputation Wednesday, defeating the New England Revolution 1-0 for a fourth straight win while extending its unbeaten run to six.

And thanks to Montreal's 2-1 upset victory in Columbus, Toronto (10-2-4) moved atop both the Eastern Conference and overall league standings. 

Because of the pandemic, TFC has played just four games at BMO Field this season with no more on the horizon. But the nomadic club keeps on keeping on.

It picked up points Wednesday despite missing the injured Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley and Justin Morrow in a stadium that has proved to be hostile territory in the past.

"This was a tough game," said coach Greg Vanney. "This was a scrap-it-out-battle-for-every inch kind of a game."

"I'm proud of the guys," he added. "They stood strong and resilient ... I thought it was an incredible effort."

After Ayo Akinola put Toronto ahead in the 29th minute, a clumsy tackle by Marky Delgado on Lee Nguyen in the 67th minute gave New England the chance to equalize. But Polish forward Adam Buksa hammered the ensuing penalty kick over the crossbar for the goal-challenged Revs.

It was a rare win in Gillette Stadium for Toronto. Going into Wednesday's game, TFC was 2-10-5 at New England and had been outscored 31-12.

Backup goalkeeper Alex Bono recorded his third clean sheet in as many appearances this season, upping his career shutout total to a club-record 29 — breaking a tie with Stefan Frei. It was also Bono''s 52nd win, another club record.

New England outshot Toronto 13-6 (6-3 in shots on target) and had 60 percent possession. with seven corners to TFC's two. 

The Revs (5-4-7) saw their four-game undefeated streak snapped.

TFC has lost just two of 26 regular-season matches (14-2-10) since a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019. Those two setbacks came four days apart last month, in one-goal losses to Montreal and Vancouver, respectively. A July defeat against New York City FC in the round of 16 at the MLS is Back Tournament did not count in the regular-season standings.

Toronto, like Montreal and Vancouver, due to pandemic-related travel restrictions, is having to play its remaining regular-season games south of the border. TFC has made East Hartford, Conn., its home away from home.

Akinola used his speed and power to good effect on Toronto's goal, outmuscling defender Andrew Farrell to get to a ball sent in by Alejandro Pozuelo before poking the ball past goalkeeper Matt Turner. New England coach Bruce Arena wanted a foul on the play but Akinola's eighth of the season — and second in as many games — stood up.

"Maybe a foul, most likely it is a foul," said New England fullback DeJuan Jones. "It's really tough to go down 1-0 like that and then it allows the other team to sit in (defence) more which made it more difficult for us.

New England coach Bruce Arena was more emphatic.

"That's a foul," he said. "And we have no one to blame but ourselves (for) not converting a penalty kick. Us not walking off the field tonight with at least a point is a crime."

"We need to perform better but I think it doesn't help when you feel like the ref's helped them get a goal."

It ended a 213-minute shutout run for the Revs, who had allowed just one goal over the previous four games.

Akinola gave a hint in the sixth minute of what was to come after a fine long pass from Delgado, but his shot flashed just wide of the post. 

New England began to press with Delgado blocking a Buksa shot in the 17th minute after defender Chris Mavinga lost the ball. Toronto fullback Richie Laryea had to intervene seconds later to snuff out another threat.

New England's Brandon Bye had a chance in the 37th minute after a corner but he skied his shot from in front.

There was some bad blood in the 39th when Toronto winger Pablo Piatti, incensed at a hard Tommy McNamara challenge, went after the Revs midfielder. McNamara had earned the ire of Laryea seconds earlier for a physical tackle.

Bono flubbed a couple of catches in the first half. He did better early n the second half, denying Jones and Nguyen.

Buksa's deflection from in-close went wide in the 61st minute. Akinola, put in behind the defence by a fine Laryea pass, clipped the post in the 77th minute.

Vanney made four changes to the starting 11 that beat Philadelphia 2-1 on the weekend,.

Bono, fullback Tony Gallacher, centre back Laurent Ciman and midfielder Nick DeLeon came in for Quentin Westberg, Morrow, Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore.

Brazilian fullback Auro, recovered from an ankle bone bruise, returned to action in the second half after a four-game absence. Argentine forward Gustavo Bou, New England's leading goal-scorer, did not dress because of a minor injury.

Wednesday's game was the second of five in 16 days for Toronto, which visits Cincinnati on Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 7, 2020

The Canadian Press