TORONTO — Sebastian Giovinco and Herculez Gomez scored as Toronto FC clinched its first-ever playoff berth with a 2-1 over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.
It was the fourth-straight win for Toronto (15-13-4), which will be heading to the post-season for the first time after joining Major League Soccer in 2006.
Giovinco brought the crowd on its feet in the 79th minute after deking out a slew of Red Bulls before firing a shot into the right hand side of the net. He celebrated the goal by using the Toronto Blue Jays stirring the pot symbol.
Giovinco, who arrived back in Toronto late Wednesday afternoon from international duty with Italy, subbed into the game in the 71st minute for Gomez. Giovinco played Tuesday against Norway in a Euro 2016 qualifier.
Shaun Wright-Phillips scored the lone goal for New York (16-10-6) in the 86th minute.
It was the 22nd goal of the season for Giovinco, who has been having an MVP-calibre season.
Gomez gave Toronto a 1-0 lead in the 51st minute after picking up a through ball from Jackson that deflected off a New York defender and beat outstretched Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles.
It was the first goal of the season for the 33-year-old American, who was making his first start for TFC since Sept. 5 after signing with the club in early August.
Giovinco created another opportunity in the 85th minute when he used his speed to bolt down the right-hand side of the pitch and send in across, but Robles made a big save to keep the game at 2-0.
Toronto controlled the majority of the first half despite being outshot 5-1.
Damien Perquis had TFC’s best first-half chance in the 24th minute off a free kick. Gomez’s ball curled towards the goal but Perquis just missed his headed attempt, although the ball still nearly found its way past Robles.
An odd play occurred in the 34th minute when Toronto’s Jozy Altidore, sitting on the bench, was given a red card for a foul and abusive language.
Reds goalkeeper Chris Konopka, with help from Perquis, came out to make a sprawling save in the 13th minute that kept the game scoreless.
Toronto moved into second place in the Eastern Conference, five points behind the Red Bulls. The top six teams in each conference make the playoffs with the top two teams on each side getting a first round bye. The third and fourth-ranked clubs open at home.
The Red Bulls shut out Toronto 3-0 in their last meeting in New York on Aug. 15.
The 18,143 in attendance on a chilly night at BMO Field cheered loudly in the 36th minute when it was shown on the video board that the Blue Jays had beaten the Texas Rangers in Game 5 of their American League Division Series.
Notes: Toronto captain Michael Bradley was inactive due to a mild groin injury. … TFC improved to 11-4-1 at BMO Field this season.
Ryan McKenna, The Canadian Press