Tag Archives: Bulls

Raptors’ COVID-19 issues worsen, forcing postponement of Sunday game against Bulls

After dodging COVID-19 for almost half of the NBA season, the Toronto Raptors have been dealt a big blow.

The NBA called off Toronto’s game against the visiting Chicago Bulls on Sunday night due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

In a shortened NBA season reeling from COVID-19 cases and game cancellations, it’s the first game cancellation for the Raptors.

The league said the Raptors are dealing with positive test results, and combined with contact tracing issues, won’t have the league-required eight players available Sunday.

Toronto was missing head coach Nick Nurse, five members of his staff and star forward Pascal Siakam for Friday’s 122-111 victory over Houston.

The Raptors-Bulls game is the 30th to be postponed so far this season because of COVID-19 testing or contact tracing but the first time Toronto has had to reschedule.

It was the first postponement this season for Toronto, which is playing its home games in Tampa, Fla., because of Canada’s border regulations around COVID-19, and health and safety measures in Toronto. Chicago has now had four of its games pushed back, all because its opponent for each of those contests was going through a virus-related problem.

The only teams that have not had a game postponed by virus issues so far this season are Brooklyn, Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers.

Players, staff tested twice daily

Toronto used 12 players on Friday and had 14 listed as available to play. For Sunday’s game, Siakam was the only player who had been listed on Saturday’s injury report as out because of health and safety protocols, which indicates results returned Saturday either showed more problems, or the contact tracing investigations showed players had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and may have to quarantine.

The names of players or staff members affected were not revealed.

WATCH | Lowry leads Nurse, Siakam-less Raps past Rockets:

Toronto defeats Houston 122-111, Nick Nurse and 5 other members of the coaching staff along with Pascal Siakam were not at the game because of health and safety protocols. 1:23

Players and staff are tested twice daily.

The Raptors announced Nurse and most of his staff would miss Friday’s game a few hours before tip-off.

At the time, Toronto general manager Bobby Webster said it wasn’t clear Siakam’s situation was linked to the coaches.

“The NBA is being extremely careful here,” Webster said. “It’s early in what’s going on here, so I think we’re all being conscientious and not taking any risks … We’ll see what tomorrow brings us.”

WATCH | CBC Sports’ Vivek Jacob discusses Fred VanVleet’s all-star snub:

Vivek Jacob is joined by Raptors reporter William Lou, to discuss Fred VanVleet not being selected to the 2021 All-Star Game and the Raptors getting back to the .500 mark after a slow 2-8 start to the season. 4:40

The Raptors’ staff was already shorthanded, given Chris Finch left the team earlier this week to become head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Adrian Griffin, Jama Mahlalela and Jon Goodwillie make up the remainder of Nurse’s coaching staff.

About half the league’s teams are allowing a small number of fans into arenas for games, but testing protocols and other rules have been stiffened as the season has gone on in the interest of safety. The league has been able to play about 94 per cent of its scheduled games so far this season, which NBA commissioner Adam Silver and some players have touted as some measure of success to this point.

Scheduled to host Pistons on Tuesday

“Hopefully, going forward, we can continue it,” Miami forward Kelly Olynyk said Sunday. “Obviously, we’d love to see fans back in the arenas, travel, all that kind of stuff be permitted and allowed when it’s safe to do so. But right now, we’re still trying to get the games in as safely as we can.”

The Raptors are scheduled to host Detroit on Tuesday at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Fla., before wrapping up their first-half schedule on Thursday in Boston.

The NBA released its schedule for the second half of the season last week, and those jam-packed lists — some teams are slotted to play 40 times in a span of 68 days — includes games postponed in the first half because of the virus and the February ice storm that caused a handful of postponements in Texas.

The Raptors were already scheduled to play 35 games in 66 days in the season’s second half, including a gruelling four-game western road trip that sees Toronto play four games in six days at Denver, Utah and Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers.

Rescheduling more games will get even tougher from here, and the notion of not every team playing its full 72-game allotment this season seems like a distinct possibility.

During the season’s second half, which runs from March 10 through May 16, the Raptors and Bulls share 19 days without a game on their schedules. But without moving several other games around, the only possible date they could play without creating a back-to-back-to-back — or even a back-to-back-to-back-to-back — for either team is April 8.

Toronto opens the second half of the season on March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks.

Florida added 5,539 coronavirus cases and 118 deaths on Sunday. The state has had more than 1.9 million cases since the pandemic’s arrival last March.

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TFC appoints former Red Bulls coach Chris Armas to succeed Greg Vanney

Toronto FC confirmed former New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas as Greg Vanney’s successor on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old Armas becomes Toronto’s 10th head coach.

“I could not be more excited to join a club with Toronto FC’s level of excellence and winning tradition and I will work tirelessly to uphold those standards,” Armas said in a statement.

“As an opposing coach I felt the passion the fans and supporters bring to BMO Field. It is next level,” he added. “I can’t wait to put a team on the field that will not only make them proud with the way we play, but also with the way we run, battle and compete every minute of every game.”

Vanney stepped down as head coach and technical director on Dec. 1 after more than six years at TFC’s helm. He subsequently was named coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Armas, an elite defensive midfielder during a 12-year playing career with the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chicago Fire, was let go as head coach by the Red Bulls last September with the team at 3-4-2.

He inherits a Toronto club that finished runner-up in the regular-season standings at 13-5-5 despite playing just four games at home due to pandemic-related travel restrictions. TFC shifted operations to East Hartford, Conn., exiting in the first round of the playoffs after a 1-0 loss to lower-seeded Nashville.

Armas will join the search for a new designated player, with Toronto opting not pick up the option of Argentine forward Pablo Piatti. Depth in the backline is also a need.

‘Excellent winning pedigree’

After succeeding Jesse Marsch as head coach of the Red Bulls in July 2018, Armas led the team on a 12-3-3 run to clinch the 2018 Supporters’ Shield. His overall record with New York was 33-27-11 in all competitions.

“Chris has an excellent winning pedigree and is a fiery, competitive guy who wants his teams to play on the front foot,” Toronto president Bill Manning said. “He is the right fit to build upon the foundation that’s been established at TFC.

“Our fans are going to love his intensity and how that’s going to translate into our team’s style of play for years to come.”

Armas had previously served as a Red Bulls assistant coach for 3 1/2 seasons, two of which were as the top assistant in charge of New York’s attack.

Current Toronto GM Ali Curtis was sporting director of the Red Bulls from December 2014 to February 2017.

Curtis said Armas was unmatched when it came to “integrity, authenticity, and professionalism.”

“While I have known Chris over the years, during the interview process, he conveyed perspective, vision, and coaching qualities, which solidified our belief in him as the top candidate,” he added.

“I am excited about his intensity, passion, tactics, and way of teaching. The resources and support that we will provide to Chris will be different than his previous roles, which we know will be beneficial to his vision and our success. ΓǪ We are a team that strives to win championships, and Chris is the ideal coach to lead us now, and in the future.”

Picked as player in same draft as Vanney

Prior to the Red Bulls, Armas was an assistant coach with the Chicago Fire and head coach of the Adelphi University women’s team in Long Island, N.Y.

The Galaxy drafted Armas seventh overall in the 1996 MLS supplemental draft. That same year, Los Angeles selected Vanney 17th overall in the inaugural MLS College Draft.

Armas, a former Long Island Rough Rider, spent two seasons in L.A. before being traded to the Chicago Fire ahead of their inaugural 1998 campaign. He helped the Fire win both the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup that year.

He was named to the MLS Best XI from 1998 through 2001 before being sidelined by a knee injury. He returned in 2003, earning MLS Comeback Player of the Year and MLS Best XI honours.

Armas, who captained Chicago from 2003 to 2007, played in 264 MLS regular-season games (260 starts) with two goals and 48 assists. He retired at the end of the 2007 season.

On the international front, Armas won 66 caps for the U.S., and was chosen U.S. Soccer’s Male Athlete of the Year in 2000.

Toronto said Armas’ coaching staff will be announced at a later date.

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Toronto FC win streak snapped at 5 games after settling for draw with Red Bulls

Teenager Caden Clark continued the torrid start to his MLS career, scoring his second goal in as many games to lift the New York Red Bulls into a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC on Wednesday night.

Clark, who turned 17 in May, marked his debut on the weekend with a spectacular volley off a corner against Atlanta. He did it again in the 77th minute Wednesday, finding the top corner with his a left-footed rocket from outside the penalty box.

The late goal ended Toronto’s win streak at five games, one short of matching the club record.

Introduced in the 59th minute, Clark added immediate punch to the New York offence. The Minnesota native was riding a high after becoming the fifth-youngest MLS player to score on debut.

Toronto (11-2-5) is still undefeated in eight games (6-0-2), a run that also included victories over Montreal, New York City FC, Columbus Crew SC, the Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution and FC Cincinnati.

The Red Bulls (7-8-3) were coming off a 1-0 win Saturday in Atlanta that snapped a two-game losing streak.

Toronto’s Alejandro Pozuelo opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute after Ayo Akinola’s rising shot off a corner hit Dru Yearwood’s arm. It was the eighth goal of the season for Pozuelo.


Goalkeeper Ryan Meara stood rooted to the spot as Pozuelo, who upped his career MLS penalty success rate to 10-of-11, rolled the ball into the corner of goal.

The Spaniard missed one-of-two spot kicks in a 1-1 tie against NYCFC at Yankee Stadium last September. A failed attempt to pass the ball from the penalty spot to teammate Pablo Piatti in a 1-0 loss to Montreal earlier this season apparently is not considered an attempt.

Yearwood appeared to have redeemed himself in the 32nd minute with a shot through traffic that went in from a corner. But a Red Bull player was ruled to be offside and interfering with goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.

WATCH | Red Bulls’ teen Clark scores late equalizer:

After scoring in his MLS debut on Saturday, Caden Clark records his 2nd career goal with an excellent strike as his New York Red Bulls play to 1-1 draw with Toronto FC who have their win streak snapped but are still unbeaten in 8 games. 1:17

Pozuelo had chances for more goals at Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field but his shots hit bodies, went wide or were saved.

TFC has lost just two of 28 regular-season games (16-2-10) since a 2-0 defeat at the Red Bulls on Aug. 3, 2019. A 3-1 loss to NYCFC on July 26 in round-of-16 play at the MLS is Back Tournament doesn’t count because the knockout rounds of the competition did not factor into the standings.

Wednesday’s game was the fourth in 12 days for Toronto, which faces Atlanta on Sunday.

Greg Vanney made four changes from his weekend lineup in Cincinnati, bringing back Chris Mavinga, Nick DeLeon, Piatti and Akinola.

Newly signed homegrown player Ralph Priso made the bench. The 18-year-old midfielder from Toronto, a Canada under-17 youth international who joined the Toronto academy in January 2017, wore No. 97. He is the 25th player to sign for the first team from the academy.

WATCH | TFC clinch playoff berth with victory over Cincinnati:

Toronto FC earned their 5th straight victory and became the first team to clinch an MLS playoff spot with a 1-0 win over FC Cincinnati. 1:01

Pozuelo had a pair of early chances for Toronto. Meara made the save to deny the Spaniard in the eighth minute off a nice give-and-go with DeLeon. Pozuelo then shot wide off the ensuing corner.

Jonathan Osorio split the defence and found Akinola in the 17th minute but the striker could not get the shot away. Three minutes later, Meara parried Piatti’s swerving shot from just outside the penalty box.

Westberg made a diving one-handed save to deflect a Florian Valot shot in the 29th minute of a first half that saw 63 per cent possession for Toronto despite the Red Bulls’ trademark high press.

Pozuelo had another chance in the 53rd minute but his weak shot was easily saved. Westberg then stopped Tom Barlow from close range after defender Omar Gonzalez’s header didn’t reach his goalkeeper.

Pozuelo found Akinola with a through ball but his shot deflected off a defender. Another Pozuelo chance bounced off a Red Bulls body in front of goal in the 74rd.

Former Whitecap defender Tim Parker captained the Red Bulls with skipper Sean Davis, who returned to action on the weekend from a knee injury, starting on the bench. Austrian attacking midfielder Daniel Royer, who leads the team with four goals, came off the bench in the second half.

The two teams will meet again in the regular-season finale Nov. 8 at Red Bull Arena.

Impact edged by Revs

Kekuta Manneh and Teal Bunbury scored early goals, Adam Buska had a goal and an assist, and the New England Revolution beat the Montreal Impact 3-2 on Wednesday night at Red Bulls Stadium.

Manneh opened the scoring with his first goal of the season in the 13th minute, side-footing a one-touch shot into an empty net. Buska ran onto a loose ball before tapping it to Manneh for the finish from point-blank range.

Alexander Buttner chipped a high entry to the centre of the box where Bunbury scored on a header to make it 2-0 in the 20th.

WATCH | Impact’s comeback falls short in loss to Revs:

New England’s Adam Buksa scored the game-winner and added an assist in a 3-2 victory over Montreal. 1:01

New England (7-4-7) has won consecutive games and has one loss in its last seven matches.

Amar Sejdic tapped in a roller from the top of the six-yard box in the 27th minute for the Impact. Buska beat a pair of defenders before his shot was stopped by goalkeeper James Pantemis. Buska then put the rebound into an empty net in the 52nd minute to make it 3-1.

Ballou Tabla’s goal — the 21-year-old’s first since 2017 — in stoppage capped the scoring.

Montreal (6-10-2) has lost six of its last eight games.

The Impact are playing their remaining home games in the United States due to travel restrictions regarding COVID-19 put in place by the Canadian government.

Whitecaps edge LAFC

Lucas Cavallini scored twice and the Vancouver Whitecaps took a 2-1 victory over Los Angeles FC on Wednesday.

Cristian Dajome and Fredy Montero assisted on both goals for the `Caps (7-11-0).

WATCH | Whitecaps take down LAFC:

Lucas Cavallini of Mississauga, Ont., scored both goals as Vancouver beat Los Angeles 2-1. 1:16

Eduard Atuesta tallied the lone goal for L.A. (7-7-2), converting a penalty kick in the 83rd minute.

Evan Bush did not register a save but collected his second straight win for the Whitecaps. LAFC `keeper Pablo Sisniega stopped two shots.

L.A. was without several of its top players Wednesday, including Diego Rossi, who’s away with the Uruguayan national team, and midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who is out with an ankle injury.

The result comes three weeks after LAFC shellacked Vancouver 6-0 in California, igniting a four-game losing skid.

WATCH | Cavallini connects off of slick passing:

The Vancouver Whitecaps work their way down field with some stellar passing as Lucas Cavallini of Mississauga, Ont., scores their opening goal against Los Angeles FC. 1:39

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The Michael Jordan Bulls documentary is a great escape

This is a web version of The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now:

The big Michael Jordan Bulls documentary is out

With no actual live sports to talk about, this is the hottest topic among sports fans right now. The Last Dance — the highly anticipated 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls teams of the 1980s and (moreso) ’90s — was released today in Canada. The first two episodes are available now to everyone on Netflix, and two more will come out every Monday for the next month.

I’ve seen the first five, so (without spoiling too much) here’s an idea of what to expect and some things that stood out:

1. A lot of people are calling it “The Michael Jordan documentary” but it’s not really that.

“The Jordan Bulls documentary” would be more accurate. Basically, the series tells the story of the rise and fall of one of the greatest sports dynasties of all time — from Jordan’s arrival as an NBA rookie in 1984 through the team’s disintegration during the tumultuous 1997-98 season, when the Bulls nevertheless won their sixth championship in eight years.

Obviously, Jordan is the main character, and the first five episodes are all largely about his personal rise. But the series also takes detours into someone or something else in his orbit. In episode two, it’s aggrieved right-hand man Scottie Pippen. In three, it’s rebounding/partying machine Dennis Rodman. In four, it’s coach Phil Jackson. Episode five covers the ’92 Olympics (including the legendary Dream Team scrimmage in Monte Carlo) and Jordan’s “other” career as an endorsement giant (including his infamous “Republicans buy sneakers too” comment). Each of these chapters could be its own documentary, so at times they feel a bit rushed. But you still get a pretty good survey of the forces that drove the Bulls dynasty.

2. That final ’97-98 season anchors the story.

Each episode flips back and forth in time between those detours and the fateful last season (with the late Chicago GM Jerry Krause immediately cast as the villain). Obviously, we know how it will end, but one of the striking things is that everyone at the time seemed to know it too. The title of the documentary is actually what Jackson named the season before it started. He even printed it on the little handbooks he gave to players on the first day of training camp. So it’s clear to everyone involved that the dynasty is crumbling, brick by brick, in slow motion. And no one seems able — or willing — to do much about it.

3. The behind-the-scenes footage is good.

This was one of the big “gets” for director Jason Hehir and his filmmakers — a trove of never-released tape from an NBA film crew that was granted generous access to the Bulls for the entire Last Dance season. So we get to see stuff like Jordan and his teammates having heated talks on the bench, and talking and joking (and swearing) in the dressing room or on the bus.

It’s interesting seeing them in their natural habitat. Today’s NBA players give us the illusion of access with the idealized snapshots of their “real” lives they post on social media (actually, this is how everyone uses social media). But most of the behind-the-scenes footage in the doc feels truly unfiltered, even though at times the Bulls seem aware of the camera.


Jordan with Pippen and U.S. teammate Clyde Drexler on the medal stand at the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona. (Susan Ragan/Associated Press)

4. The other big get was Jordan himself.

No one was sure how this would go. Like a lot of rich and famous people, he’s always been pretty careful about what he says in public. But whether the timing was right, or the subjects (himself, basketball), or the questions, Jordan is pretty revealing and engaging over the first five episodes. Sitting in his waterfront home in Florida, in his puffy middleagedness, with a whiskey and a cigar at his side, there are times when it feels like Jordan is just telling stories to an old friend. He says funny things. He rehashes old grievances. He tells us how he feels about former teammates and rivals (loved Rodman, hated Isiah Thomas). He drops f-bombs.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Jordan remains this open when we get to the tough stuff — particularly his father’s murder, which led to his retiring from basketball for a year and a half to try baseball. But so far it’s working.

5. It’s great to just watch Jordan play basketball again.

His persona was so heavily — and carefully — marketed back in the day that it’s fair for younger basketball fans to wonder what percentage of his greatness is actually real. But the old game footage in the doc is a great reminder that Jordan’s celebrity was built on a solid foundation: he was an electrifying basketball player. In an era when low-post big men still roamed the earth, Jordan was knifing through them, soaring above the rim, throwing down huge dunks… his game was ahead of its time, so it still holds up.

The highlights from his first few seasons are especially fun to watch — like the time he led his overmatched Bulls into Boston Garden for a playoff matchup with the famed ’86 Celtics and dropped 49 and 63 (!) points in back-to-back losses. Or when he torched Cleveland and nailed “The Shot” to win another famous series in ’89.

6. Bottom line: the doc is worth watching.

Because of its length, its iconic main subject and the hype surrounding it, the natural comparison for The Last Dance is 2016’s O.J.: Made in America. But it’s not on that level. Ezra Edelman’s O.J. brilliantly answers the questions “Who is O.J. Simpson and how did he become O.J. Simpson?” by turning over every rock in his life and his environment. By the end, you’re left with a rich portrait of not only the man himself but also the many things that shaped him — weighty stuff like the legacy of racism and police brutality in Los Angeles. Whatever your assumptions about Simpson going into the doc, it challenges them. The Last Dance does not do that (at least not in the first five episodes). It mostly accepts the Jordan mythology and presents it in fresh, attractive packaging. It leans pretty heavily on nostalgia. But it’s a fun watch, and an entertaining reminder of a simpler, better time in sports and in the world. Maybe that’s the documentary we need right now.

Quickly…

Someone just paid $ 216,000 US for an autographed jersey Michael Jordan wore at the 1992 Olympics. Even more staggeringly, that’s not a record for a Jordan jersey. Reportedly, one from the ’84 L.A. Olympics — right after he got drafted by the Bulls — once fetched $ 274K. The bidding for the ’92 jersey started at $ 25K, according to the auction house that sold it. Surely, the release of the documentary didn’t hurt the sale price.

Novak Djokovic would prefer not to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The world’s No. 1 tennis player was asked what he would do if vaccination (once available) was made mandatory for travelling and/or playing on tour. He said: “Personally I am opposed to vaccination and I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,” before adding that he might change his mind down the road. That might be awhile. All pro tennis tournaments have been suspended until at least mid-July, but most experts say a vaccine likely won’t be ready until at least 2021. So if tennis is able to return this year, it will (like other sports) probably have to take other measures. Read more about Djokovic’s comments here.

Alphonso Davies got a contract extension. The rising Canadian soccer star added two more years to his deal with top German club Bayern Munich, which now controls him through June 2025. Davies, 19, has played in 31 games for Bayern this season, and he impressed a lot of people with a strong performance in a Champions League match vs. Chelsea back in February. Davies will also be a key part of the Canadian national team’s campaign to qualify for the 2026 World Cup, which Canada is co-hosting with the U.S. and Mexico. Read more about Davies’ new deal here.

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TFC continues 2nd-half resurgence with win over Red Bulls

Jozy Altidore conjured up a goal to remember. Alejandro Pozuelo was clinical from the penalty spot. And substitute Ashtone Morgan closed out the night with a rarity — his second goal in 123 regular-season matches.

All three played their part along with goalkeeper Quentin Westberg as Toronto FC continued its resurgence with a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls in MLS play Wednesday. After a poor start to the season, Toronto (8-8-5) still has to hit top gear but is beginning to build some speed.

While just 3-7-4 over its 14 previous matches, Toronto has now only lost once in its last five outings (3-1-1).

“We need to go on a little run here … We knew tonight was an opportunity to kind of get some momentum,” said Altidore.

WATCH | TFC heading in the right direction with latest win:

Jozy Altidore and Ashtone Morgan both scored highlight reel goals in a 3-1 win over the New York Red Bulls. 1:50

Coach Greg Vanney liked a lot of what he saw but says there is still work to do.

“We had a couple of moments of just total naivete,” he said. “I think there’s also some times we need to put our pride in the back pocket and put the ball up the field … We put ourselves under pressure sometimes trying to play out of some things that we didn’t need to down the stretch.”

A healthy roster and a few additions are helping turn the Toronto tide, as are timely goals and a fortified defence. Toronto, while still prone to some sloppiness, is showing a little swagger on the ball.

The victory moved Toronto up one spot into sixth place in the Eastern Conference. TFC is embarking on a key part of the schedule with eight straight games against East rivals after Saturday’s visit by the Houston Dynamo.

The announced crowd of 24,462 at BMO Field held its breath as Pozuelo went down in the 60th minute, turning his ankle after being kicked in the back of the leg by Derrick Etienne. The Spanish playmaker was promptly replaced but managed to walk off.

He was walking gingerly after the game with Vanney saying there was no immediate word on the extent of the injury.

Firing on all cylinders

The home side came out firing on all cylinders and Altidore put Toronto ahead with a exquisite goal in the sixth minute. The U.S. international, with his back to goal, managed to backheel a fine Tsubasa Endoh cross low off the goalpost past a diving Robles for a goal with a considerable degree of difficulty.

“An incredible touch. I don’t know how else you get that ball into the goal other than to do that,” said Vanney.

The goal, Altidore’s seventh in 11 games this season, capped a 14-pass sequence — 10 of which came after Westberg played the ball at the back.

“A great ball from Tsubasa and it was a great team goal,” said Altidore, not one to blow his own horn.

Pozuelo made it 2-0 from the penalty spot in the 26th minute after Kemar Lawrence brought down Richie Laryea in the penalty box. It was the Spaniard’s ninth of the campaign.

The Red Bulls cut the lead to 2-1 through Tom Barlow in the 63rd minute and the momentum seemed to be shifting the visitors’ way. But a mix-up between New York goalkeeper Luis Robles and a defender in the 72nd minute — with both trying to get to a probing Altidore pass — left Morgan with an open goal.

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TFC's playoff hopes on life support after loss to Red Bulls

Alejandro Romero Gamarra scored in the 70th minute and the New York Red Bulls all but knocked defending MLS champions Toronto FC out of playoff contention with a 2-0 victory Saturday night.

Watch the Red Bulls deliver the decisive blow:

Alejandro Romero Gamarra and Derrick Etienne scored in the New York Red Bulls 2-0 win over Toronto, as the defending champions failed to make up ground in the MLS standings. 1:22

The Red Bulls (18-7-5) tied a franchise record for most wins and are a league-best 12-2-1 at home. Toronto (8-15-6) entered the game nine points out of sixth place and one of three teams chasing Montreal for the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. TFC has won just two of its last eight league games, and has five remaining including a trip to Montreal on October 21.

Derrick Etienne added a goal in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. Forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, coming off his fifth career hat trick, assisted on the goal.

One of Toronto's better shots came in the 58th minute. Victor Vazquez floated the ball to Tosaint Ricketts, but his shot sailed over the crossbar. TFC forward Jozy Altidore left the game three minutes after halftime after injuring his right foot or ankle.

The Red Bulls won the last meeting 1-0 on July 1. Kemar Lawrence scored the lone goal in the 4th minute.

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Whitecaps settle for draw after late goal from Red Bulls

The Vancouver Whitecaps were trying to make the most out of a disappointing situation.

The Whitecaps conceded a goal in the 90th minute and settled for a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. With Vancouver locked in a race to make the Major League Soccer playoffs, securing a point before a sellout crowd of 22,120 at BC Place was good but earning three would have been much better.

Defender Kendall Waston scored both Whitecaps (9-9-7) goals off headers but was frustrated after the game.

Click on the video player below to watch match highlights:

A 90th minute goal from Daniel Royer was just in time for the New York Red Bulls to draw the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2. 0:54

"I would rather win than score one or two goals to be honest," said the big centre back. "Today was a match that was a little bit difficult in the way we didn't perform as how we would have liked.

"One point still helps us to continue to fight to get into the playoffs."

Midfielder Daniel Royer scored twice for the Red Bulls.

On his final goal, midfielder Tyler Adams sent a kick into the box. Royer beat a couple of Whitecaps defenders and chipped the ball past Vancouver goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.

The Red Bulls were playing a man short after defender Michael Murillo was shown his second yellow card for hard tackles on teenaged star Alphonso Davies.

'Dubious call'

The tying goal came off a free kick after Waston was called for a foul after knocking down a New York player while battling for the ball in the air. Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson wasn't happy with the call.

"I think it was a dubious call for the free kick," said Robinson. "It's not his fault how big he is."

Robinson called the draw "a very good point for us" considering how bad his team played in the first half. The Whitecaps are coming off a stretch of playing five games in 15 days.

"The first half I thought we were awful," he said. "We looked lethargic."

"After the first half performance, if you would have said we were drawing the game, I would have taken the point."

Royer opened the scoring in the fifth minute after striker Bradley Wright-Phillips threaded a pass between two Whitecap defenders. It was the 14th time this season Vancouver has allowed the first goal in an MLS game.

Waston strikes again

Waston tied the game in the 42nd minute off a corner kick from Yordy Reyna. He went high in the air and headed the ball into the net.

Waston put the Whitecaps ahead 2-1 in the 60th minute when he directed a corner kick from Felipe into the New York goal. It was his third goal of the season.

Conceding goals has been a problem all season for Vancouver. The Whitecaps have allowed 49 goals, the most of any Western Conference team.

"It's individual errors we are making," said Robinson. "It's not just one person it's across the board.

"Sometimes it just comes down to a lack of confidence in your decision making. I think that's what happened to much this year."

The draw moves the Red Bulls (15-6-3) into a tie with Atlanta for first place in the Eastern Conference. New York has just one loss in their last seven games (5-1-1).

"It was really important to bounce back and to at least get a point out of this game," said Royer. "We'd been the better team today. I think we controlled most parts of the game."

The Whitecaps are undefeated in four games (2-0-2) but with nine matches remaining Vancouver sits eighth in the West. The top six teams advance to the playoffs.

"To the end we have to continue fighting," said Waston. "Nothing is impossible.

"Now these last games we have, they are all finals. We have to try to get in the playoffs."

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Impact cant handle Red Bulls, suffer 4th loss of season

Bradley Wright-Phillips had a goal and an assist on Saturday and the New York Red Bulls beat the Montreal Impact 3-1.

Wright-Phillips opened the scoring for the Red Bulls (3-2-0) in the fifth minute, beating goalkeeper Evan Bush into the upper right corner. Florian Valot’s takeaway in the middle of Montreal’s side of the field set up Wright-Phillips with an opening from the right side of the 18-yard box.

Romero “Kaku” Gamarra finished Wright-Phillips’ cross in the 57th minute to give New York a 2-1 lead. Wright-Phillips was stopped by Bush but gathered the rebound and fed it to Kaku, who one-timed it into the far corner.

Michael Murillo tapped in Kemar Lawrence’s low cross to cap the scoring in the 76th minute.

Montreal (2-4-0) tied it 1-1 in the 33rd minute on Jeisson Vargas’ free kick, which deflected in off the right post.

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MLS playoffs: TFC readies for desperate Red Bulls charge

History and Toronto FC’s sterling record at home are against the New York Red Bulls as they try to recover from a 2-1 deficit in Sunday’s second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal.

The sixth-seeded Red Bulls need to win and score at least two goals to advance, with a repeat of Monday’s Game 1 score forcing extra time.

It won’t be easy at BMO Field, where top-seeded Toronto posted nine shutouts while going 13-1-3 this season. And given Toronto’s offence — it scored in 31 of 34 games this season and was last blanked at home on March 31 — the visitors may have to find even more goals.

History is also against New York, which finished the regular season 19 points below Toronto.

Home teams are 40-13-13 all-time in the second leg of a playoff series.

Down, not out

And only three times in MLS playoff history has a team hosted the first leg and lost, then won the second leg on the road to advance (Colorado Rapids, 2004; San Jose Earthquakes, 2010; and Los Angeles Galaxy, 2012).

Toronto is also undefeated in its last five home matches against the Red Bulls, who last won at BMO Field in 2013.

The Red Bulls, who held a players-only dinner this week, choose only to see that they are at the halfway mark of the series.

“I think the mood in the team is that we’re down but we’re not out,” said captain Sacha Kljestan.

The first goal Sunday will be huge. Toronto was 19-1-2 during the regular season when scoring first, and adding to its lead would force the Red Bulls to go on all-out attack, further opening themselves up to the counter.

On the other hand, an early New York goal would give the visitors confidence that a comeback is possible.

Vazquez, Moor question-marks

The series winner will face either second-seeded New York City FC or No. 5 Columbus Crew SC in the Eastern Conference final. Columbus leads 4-1 heading into Sunday’s finale at Yankee Stadium and looks a solid shot to move on. No team down three goals after the first leg has ever advanced.

Defender Drew Moor and Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, Toronto’s injury question-marks coming out of Game 1, are both said to be on the mend.

“They were involved in training today. So far, so good in terms of potential availability [Sunday],” said coach Greg Vanney.

“Neither of the injuries are ones that will necessarily get worse. It’s just a matter of can they do all the things that are necessary for the amount of time necessary and that will be the decider,” he added.

TFC stand ready

Toronto is preparing for a desperate Red Bulls team.

“I would expect that we’re going to get the most extreme, most committed, most determined version of [the] Red Bulls possible, ” said captain Michael Bradley. “We’ve talked and worked on what that will be like.”

Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch did not pull punches after Monday’s game, saying it took “far too long” for his team to figure out Toronto’s tactics.

“Not a good performance from us. Disappointing in such a big match,” he said.

He said he was caught by surprise by the number of sub-par showings by his players.

“Just not enough belief in our guys and then that led to too many shaky performances.”

“I’m a little perplexed, I’m a little unsure as to why we were so unsure,” he added. “And we’re going to find a way to correct that.”

The game was played on Toronto terms, he argued, with TFC sitting back and waiting for the Red Bulls to turn the ball over so they could counter-attack.

Marsch, who usually plays a 3-3-3-1 formation, could inject Argentine Gonzalo Veron into the starting lineup for more offence.

The forecast calls for 13 degrees and rain at kickoff.

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