TORONTO - A late goal by Thierry Henry sounded the official death knell of Toronto FC's playoff hopes Saturday.
The French striker scored on a beautiful shot in the 88th minute to lift the New York Red Bulls to a 1-1 draw with Toronto, a fitting end for a TFC side that has been burned by late goals numerous times this season.
Danny Koevermans scored for Toronto FC (6-13-13), which needed a victory to keep alive what had already been reduced to a sliver of hope of making their first Major League Soccer post-season appearance.
"It's disappointing, if you think of all the points that we've dropped late in the game," Toronto defender Andy Iro said. "These are points that if you look back at it, we probably would have been in the playoffs.
"But I guess it's all a learning curve, it all adds to the experience of the team, and if the team can stay together then I think that ultimately while it sucks now I think we'll have positive results going forward."
Henry looked either frustrated or disinterested for much of the chilly and blustery night at BMO Field before showing his class in a split second with what was easily one of the prettiest goals of this season. The former Arsenal striker flicked on a bouncing ball off a corner kick and spun for a left-footed volley that stunned Toronto goalkeeper Milos Kocic and sent the announced crowd of 20,132 home unhappy.
Henry then fanned the flames by taunting TFC fans behind the net. After the game, the Red Bulls star refused to answer questions about his jab at the crowd.
Toronto coach Aron Winter was angry that a lacklustre effort in the late minutes of the game spoiled what was otherwise a decent performance by his team.
"We played well, but in the end of the game we have to be sharp and get the three points. It's too easy," Winter said. "It's frustrating ... the last five minutes, we're missing the focus to play the last five minutes out and get the points."
Koevermans scored in the 50th minute, taking a pass from Ryan Johnson at the left corner of the box and calmly slotting it past New York 'keeper Frank Rost.
The goal was the seventh in eight starts for the six-foot-three Dutch striker, who was given a rousing standing ovation when he was subbed out of the game in the 71st minute.
Winter took Koevermans out after he took a knock to the knee, but the move proved costly for Toronto, which noticeably lost a step without the big striker.
The home team appeared headed for a sure victory against a New York squad that, for much of the night, appeared anything but a team playing its post-season life. The Red Bulls (8-8-15), who entered clinging to the fourth and final MLS wild-card playoff spot, poured it on in the final 20 minutes.
Now Toronto, which has two MLS games left, is headed into another off-season with no playoff appearance.
"It's disappointing," Iro said. "I think when it comes to making that step, that hurdle, in terms of making playoffs and being successful, I think we have to kind of put out those types of late goals.
"The last 20, 25 minutes we kind of stepped off a little bit."
Asked what message he has for disappointed fans, Winter said the team has three more games he needs to worry about.
Toronto remains alive in CONCACAF Champions League play, but needs to beat MLS rival FC Dallas in Texas on Oct. 18 to advance to the quarter-finals in March.
Toronto's final two MLS games are Oct. 15 at Philadelphia and at BMO Field Oct. 22 versus New England.
"Then after the last game, maybe we can think about next season," Winter said.
The Red Bulls routed Toronto 5-0 when the two teams met on July 6, but Toronto's starting lineup was almost entirely different that game, played before the addition Koevermans and German captain Torsten Frings.
The two, acquired in late June, once again proved their worth Saturday, with Koevermans responsible for most of the home team's scoring chances, and Frings patrolling the back line as a sweeper. In the span of a few minutes late in the first half, Frings lunged to head away a shot from Jan Gunnar Solli that looked destined for the left side of Toronto's net.
Then at the other end of the pitch, Koevermans had Toronto's best scoring chance of the first half, launching a shot from outside the box that sailed just over the crossbar.
Note: Winter opted to rest Julian de Guzman, as the midfielder leaves Sunday for Canada's World Cup qualifying games.