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Toronto FC

New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles throws the ball into play during first half play against Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinal at BMO Field. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)
New York Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles throws the ball into play during first half play against Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinal at BMO Field. (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto FC lost 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls in an abrasive game Sunday and still advanced to the MLS Eastern Conference final on away goals after the two-leg series ended tied 2-2 on goals aggregate.

It was a feisty affair that saw Toronto striker Jozy Altidore and Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestan sent off after a tunnel melee at halftime.

League-leading Toronto will be without star striker Sebastian Giovinco for the next game after his second yellow in two games. TFC will play the Columbus Crew SC or New York City FC in the Conference final.

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The New York Red Bulls huddle after their victory after an Eastern Conference knockout round soccer game against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)
The New York Red Bulls huddle after their victory after an Eastern Conference knockout round soccer game against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. (Patrick Gorski/USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto FC begins the MLS Cup playoffs as one of the favorites after a season in which it set a league record with 69 points.

In the Eastern Conference semifinals, Toronto face a New York Red Bulls team that knows how precarious that position can be.

The Red Bulls came into the playoffs as the top team in the East in 2015 and 2016, only to fail to reach the MLS Cup final in both seasons. >> Read more

Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press

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New York City FC defender Ronald Matarrita lies on the ground after his teams loss against the Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium. (Derik Hamilton/USA Today Sports Images)
New York City FC defender Ronald Matarrita lies on the ground after his teams loss against the Toronto FC at Yankee Stadium. (Derik Hamilton/USA Today Sports Images)

NYCFC was eliminated from the MLS playoffs after losing to Toronto FC, 5-0, on Sunday.

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David Villa leads NYCFC with 12 goals. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports Images)
David Villa leads NYCFC with 12 goals. (Vincent Carchietta/USA Today Sports Images)

New York City FC needs to find goals with its MLS Cup playoff hopes hanging in the balance, and there's no better place to overhaul a two-goal deficit than at home.

New York hosts Toronto FC in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semi on Sunday, with Toronto holding a 2-0 lead after the first leg in Toronto. That leaves NYCFC with no choice but to go on the attack if it has any hope of advancing.

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Referee Silviu Petrescu is surrounded by players after booking New York City FC forward Steven Mendoza for a foul on Toronto FC forward Armando Cooper at BMO Field. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports Images)
Referee Silviu Petrescu is surrounded by players after booking New York City FC forward Steven Mendoza for a foul on Toronto FC forward Armando Cooper at BMO Field. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports Images)

Jozy Altidore scored in the 84th minute to break a feisty stalemate and substitute Tosaint Ricketts added a stoppage-time goal to give Toronto FC a 2-0 victory over New York City FC on Sunday night in Game 1 of the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal series.

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NYCFC forward David Villa (7) is congratulated by midfielder Andrea Pirio (21) after scoring a goal against D.C. United during the second half at Yankee Stadium. NYCFC won 3-2. (Andy Marlin)
NYCFC forward David Villa (7) is congratulated by midfielder Andrea Pirio (21) after scoring a goal against D.C. United during the second half at Yankee Stadium. NYCFC won 3-2. (Andy Marlin)

There was little separating Toronto FC and New York City FC during the Major League Soccer regular season.The teams played twice and drew twice -- 2-2 at Yankee Stadium on March 13 and 1-1 at BMO Field on May 18.A winner must emerge in their two-game Eastern Conference semifinal that opens in Toronto on Sunday and concludes Nov. 6 in New York.NYCFC (15-10-9) finished one point ahead of TFC (14-9-11) in the standings, which meant Toronto had to play the Philadelphia Union Wednesday to advance to the next round. TFC won 3-1 at BMO Field.

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New York City FC forward David Villa (7) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. (Troy Wayrynen)
New York City FC forward David Villa (7) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first half against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. (Troy Wayrynen)

New York City FC and Toronto FC possess two of MLS' most accomplished scorers, though the supporting casts for both sides are garnering the most attention leading up to Wednesday's important match.

While rising New York City may finally have Frank Lampard back in the mix, the Reds won't have Jozy Altidore available when they attempt to earn an elusive first win in the series.

Toronto announced Monday that Altidore will miss 6 to 8 weeks with a Grade 2 right hamstring strain sustained in Saturday's 4-3 loss to Vancouver, a major blow to both the club and the U.S. national team with the injury likely to keep the key striker from participating in next month's Copa America tournament.

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 (Vincent Carchietta)
(Vincent Carchietta)

Major League Soccer's 2016 season will begin with the New York Red Bulls hosting Toronto on March 6.

Games set for later that day include Salt Lake at Orlando, New York City at Chicago, Philadelphia at Dallas, New England at Houston, Colorado at San Jose, defending champion Columbus at Portland, Montreal at Vancouver, Kansas City at Seattle and D.C. at Los Angeles.

MLS said Tuesday this will be the first time since 2005 all teams play on opening day.

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