TORONTO - Toronto coach Greg Vanney said his star striker Sebastian Giovinco was battered and bruised after Saturday night's loss.
David Villa scored twice to lift expansion squad New York City FC to a 2-0 victory over Toronto — a game that not only halted Toronto's unbeaten streak at five games, but also raised a red flag.
New York had found a way to stop Giovinco.
"If the refereeing is going to be as naive as it was tonight, because the fouling was happening before the ball actually got to him. . . they were getting a piece of him before the ball was even in the area," Vanney said of Giovinco — who'd left the locker-room before reporters could enter.
"He's got scratches all over him, he's been kicked a number of times, he's trying to make a quick run in transition and boom, he's getting hit. If that's the template, we're going to need the officiating to take care of the players who people come to watch. This league is supposed to be about that."
Villa scored his first goal on a penalty shot in the eighth minute, awarded when Benoit Cheyrou was whistled for a hand ball in the box.
Villa stepped up and calmly slotted the ball past Toronto 'keeper Chris Konopka into the bottom left corner. Spain's all-time leading goalscorer and a World Cup winner had already turned in celebration before the ball hit the back of the net.
Villa notched his second of the night when New York pounced on a soft pass from Konopka to defender Eriq Zavaleta. The turnover proved costly — an easy goal from the former Valencia and Barcelona star in the 58th minute.
Giovinco, meanwhile, was thwarted every time he made a move by a physical New York squad intent on slowing down the game. Giovinco, TFC's leading scorer with seven goals, grew increasingly agitated as the game wore on.
Vanney, who was equally displeased, said it's in the league's best interest to protect its top players.
"It's all players who come to this league who are supposed to help us raise the level of the league. . . protect the players who help make the game beautiful, and who the fans are coming to see," he said.
New York (4-7-5) arrived with the worst record in the Eastern Conference, but Toronto knew it could have its hands full against a team on the rise, riding a two-game win streak.
Toronto's record fell to 6-5-2 in a slow and chippy game that saw the referee hand out eight yellow cards. And when the final whistle sounded, boos rang out from the BMO Field crowd of 30,029, and Reds defender Damien Perquis charged straight to a couple New York players and an ugly shoving match ensued.
"When 25 or 30,000 fans show up to a stadium it's to watch a game play and move, and I thought it was allowed to stop and be choppy," Vanney said. "Credit to them, it worked out for them, and they found a way to play us on the day."
Toronto captain Michael Bradley said they couldn't use New York's tactics as an excuse.
"If we're good enough in what we want to do, and sharp enough, then I don't think we're talking about that," Bradley said.
Toronto wasn't without its scoring chances, especially during a flurry of activity midway through the first half.
Among the best were a free kick from Giovinco that New York 'keeper Josh Saunders had to dive to save, then a beautiful cross from Ashtone Morgan that Toronto's forwards couldn't quite finish.
Luke Moore found himself one-on-one against Saunders, but the 'keeper blocked the shot.
Toronto hosts the Montreal Impact on Wednesday.
Toronto FC honoured Dwayne De Rosario in a touching pre-game tribute. The 37-year-old called an end to his 18-year pro career recently. Fans in the south grandstand unfurled a huge banner that read "There was a boy from Scarborough" — the first line of a song about De Rosario, who scored 104 MLS goals and 22 for his country.
Before TFC took the field, De Rosario's friends and former teammates like Danny Koevermans, Julian de Guzman, and Junior Hoilett, joined him in a testimonial game.