Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo shines in his Toronto FC debut
Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo chips over the keeper to score on a penalty shot against New York City during second half MLS action in Toronto, Friday, March 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, March 29, 2019 10:19PM EDT
TORONTO -- Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo made a triumphant debut for Toronto FC on Friday night, scoring two goals and setting up another in a 4-0 win over New York City FC.
The 27-year-old attacking midfielder helped make club history with Toronto winning three straight to open the season for the first time. Toronto has scored 10 goals in three games.
Seattle (3-0-0) is the only other MLS team with a perfect record with the Sounders facing Vancouver on Saturday. New York City FC (0-1-3) had no answers for the Toronto attack and remains in search of a win.
Friday's game was a coming-out party for Pozuelo, who came from Belgium's KRC Genk. One week after landing in Toronto, he was in the starting lineup. He did not disappoint.
Pozuelo exited in the 79th minute to a standing ovation from a BMO Field crowd of 25,447 still over his second goal the minute before. The Spaniard paused in the penalty box -- as if to ponder his many options -- and then casually chipped the ball over six-foot-three goalkeeper Sean Johnson into the far corner of the goal.
Jozy Altidore, in his 100th regular-season start for Toronto, led the offence with the Spaniard and benefited from his playmaking with a 29th-minute goal.
Pozuelo scored the second from the penalty spot in the 58th minute, beating Johnson down the middle with a cheeky change-up of a chip. Substitute Jay Chapman added the fourth goal in the 83rd minute, taking a pass from Brazilian fullback Auro and hammering a shot from in-close.
Toronto lost a goal and gained another through video review.
A first-half goal was called offside. The second-half penalty came after video review convinced referee Chris Penso that Alexander Callens hauled Altidore down. The replay showed Callens with a handful of Altidore's jersey.
Altidore and Callens have history, with the Toronto striker sent off last season for kicking out at the NYCFC player.
Pozuelo roamed around the pitch, occasionally showing early frustration at not getting the ball when he wanted it. He showed his blue-collar side midway through the first half, losing the ball and then tracking back to help retrieve it deep in the Toronto end.
When the Spaniard got the ball, the entire Toronto attack shifted into a high gear. Able to play the ball with both feet, Pozuelo shows signs of being a highlight-reel moment waiting to happen.
He showed his vision seven minutes in, sliding a pass through the defence to Altidore whose low shot was pushed away by Johnson.
Justin Morrow, taking a fine pass from Michael Bradley, scored two minutes later on a shot that deflected in off a NYCFC player. But the goal did not survive video review with a ruling that winger Nick DeLeon was offside in the buildup.
Pozuelo scored in the 25th minute but he was flagged offside. The Spaniard had helped set up the play, feeding DeLeon and then racing into the penalty box, redirecting DeLeon's shot in.
Pozuelo created a beauty of a goal in the 29th minute, dropping deep to start the play near midfield, playing a give-and-go with Jonathan Osorio before dribbling into the penalty box, evading two defenders and squaring the ball back for Altidore to knock in. New York wanted offside but this time the goal stood.
The Spaniard had more jaws dropping in the 36th minute when, positioned on the sideline, kicked up a leg to connect with a looping pass from distance from Bradley. Pozuelo knocked the ball to the ground and then, quick as a cobra, flicked it inside to keep it in play.
Pozuelo lashed a left-footed high shot from the edge of the penalty box in the 42nd minute, forcing a fine save from Johnson.
He flashed a free kick just wide in the 50th minute. A minute later, NYCFC's Jesus Medina hit the goalpost with Alex Bono forced to make a save off the rebound.
Pozuelo came close to setting up another for Altidore later in the second half but the big man couldn't keep his balance. Altidore came close in the 77th but his hard shot was rebuffed by Johnson.
Greg Vanney went with a back four featuring Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga at centre back with Laurent Ciman, a former MLS defender of the year, on the bench.
Toronto opened with a 3-1 win in Philadelphia before downing visiting New England 3-2. NYCFC arrived on the back of draws at Orlando City (2-2) and at home to D.C. United (0-0) and Los Angeles FC (2-2).
Toronto had won just one of the nine previous regular-season meetings with NYCFC (1-4-4), with the lone win a 4-0 decision at BMO Field in 2017.
Off the field, Toronto GM Ali Curtis continues his talent search. "We want to add more firepower," he said prior to the game after returning from a scouting trip to Argentina.
NYCFC is waiting on a marquee recruit with 27-year-old forward Heber still in Brazil awaiting a visa. The hope is he will be available for the April 6 visit by the Montreal Impact.