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Toronto FC beats New England to snap losing skid

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Toronto FC returns home with a much-needed win and some hope.

Yeferson Soteldo and Kemar Lawrence scored their first goals for Toronto, helping the slumping MLS side snap a six-game losing streak with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over the New England Revolution on Wednesday.

Tsubasa Endoh also scored for Toronto (2-8-2), recording his first goal of the season. Carles Gil and Adam Buksa replied for New England (7-3-3), with Buksa’s 78th-minute header making for a tense finale as the Revs rallied from a 3-0 early deficit.

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New England piled on the pressure with a string of late corners but TFC hung on through six minutes of added time. Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono preserved the win with a 95th-minute stop on Buksa.

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Assistant coach Javier Perez was in charge of Toronto, which fired first-year coach Chris Armas in the wake of Saturday’s 7-1 loss at D.C. United. It represented the heaviest defeat in club history.

“I think this is a very very important win, not only for what just happened this past week but as well it’s been extremely tough for many of the players,” said Perez, a 44-year-old Spaniard. “It’s tough to be away from home, away from their families. And it was very important to put together a good performance, not only to win but to put together a good performance, to believe again in us.”

Wednesday’s wide-open game featured two teams at different ends of the Eastern Conference standings. Toronto came into the contest mired in the league basement and winless in seven. It was 19 points behind New England at kickoff and ranked last in the 27-team league on defence, conceding 2.45 goals a game.

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“We’ve not been in a good way,” said Toronto captain Michael Bradley. “So when you can come to one of the best teams in the league right now and walk away with three points, that’s a great feeling. Obviously combined with the fact that now we’re headed home (Thursday), the energy is good and the feeling is really positive right now.

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“We understand it’s just one game. We put ourselves behind the 8-ball in a pretty good way, so we’ve got some real work to do. we understand that. But we’re excited. And you’ve got to start somewhere. And tonight was a really good step in the right direction. Now we’ll get ourselves back home and recover mentally and physically from this one and get ready for a big stretch.”

Wednesday’s match represented Toronto’s 31st straight game on the road since its last outing at BMO Field on Sept. 1.

But with almost the entire club fully vaccinated, crossing the border comes with fewer pandemic-related restrictions. And the hope is that the team, whose only other league win this season was May 12 over Columbus, will be able to return to play at BMO Field.

The next game isn’t until July 17, with the players promised some time off with their families first. If playing at home isn’t feasible then, the club says it has another U.S. option to host games while keeping Toronto as a home base.

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Perez says he will be in charge for the next match, against Orlando. Told by a reporter he should ask for a raise, he smiled and said: “Let’s keep winning.”

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New England, which came into the game the only MLS side yet to drop points at home this season, was looking to tie a club record with an eighth straight home win. The Revs had not lost at home since dropping a 2-1 decision to Philadelphia on Oct. 19.

But it was TFC that raced into the lead in a contest delayed nearly 90 minutes due to lightning strikes in the vicinity of Gillette Stadium. With Bradley, Alejandro Pozuelo and Soteldo pulling the strings and moving the ball quickly, Toronto repeatedly cut New England open.

Bradley returned to his role as defensive midfielder, helping distribute the ball out of defence and freeing up others for more offensive duties.

Pozuelo, TFC’s Spanish playmaker and Soteldo, a Venezuelan international winger, were starting together for the first time after a stop-and-start season due to injury.

Down 3-0 after 21 minutes Saturday, Toronto led by the same score after 24 minutes Wednesday. New England rallied in the second half and finished the game outshooting Toronto 21-11, although TFC had a 7-6 edge in shots on target.

“There were some good things but the first 30 minutes is inexcusable,” said New England coach Bruce Arena.

With New England No. 1 ‘keeper Matt Turner away with the U.S. at the Gold Cup, 36-year-old Brad Knighton made his first league appearance since March 7, 2020. Nine minutes into the game, the former Vancouver Whitecap was picking the ball out of his goal.

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Brazilian fullback Auro sent in a long ball towards the New England penalty box aimed at Soteldo. Knighton waited for the ball to enter the box so he could handle it, with defender Brandon Bye getting out of his way. But the ball died on the artificial turf and never made it to Knighton, who was rooted just inside the box. Soteldo got to it first, dribbled past Knighton and slotted it into the empty net to open his MLS account.

Asked to rate Knighton’s performance, Arena paused before replying: “Mediocre, to be honest with you. Nothing special.”

“He’s an experienced goalkeeper. We shouldn’t be conceding that first goal.’”

The Revs’ defence was nowhere to be found in the 15th minute. Pozuelo found an unmarked Lawrence and the Jamaican international hammered a left-footed shot past Knighton from close range.

Knighton had no chance in the 24th minute when Endoh, after a feed from Soteldo, made room to curl a beautiful left-footed shot from just outside the penalty box into the corner of the goal.

The Revs came close as the first half wore on with Buksa and Gustavo Bou, who had scored in his five previous games, both hitting the post. Bye, alone in front of goal, skied his shot late in the half.

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Pozuelo scored in stoppage time but the goal was called off due to offside. The Revs headed to the dressing room to a chorus of boos.

Gil gave the crowd something to cheer about in the 56th minute, beating Bono with a superb free kick from outside the box. It was the second goal of the season for the Spaniard, who leads the league with 10 assists.

Pozuelo had a chance in the 68th minute after Soteldo dribbled past several defenders but the Spaniard’s shot went straight at Knighton

Perez, who joined Toronto’s staff in February, made six changes to the team thumped by D.C. United, several by necessity.

Toronto was missing injured goalkeeper Quentin Westberg (finger) and fullback Justin Morrow (back). Centre back Eriq Zavaleta was suspended after being sent off in the D.C. debacle. Midfielder Jonathan Osorio and fullback/wingback Richie Laryea are away with Canada preparing for the Gold Cup.

Defender Chris Mavinga, normally a fixture at centre back, did not dress. Perez said it was a “precautionary” move because Mavinga had been feeling some discomfort. He did not detail the injury.

Star striker Jozy Altidore, who has not played since May 22, remains on the outs with the club.

New England was also without Canadian midfielder Tajon Buchanan, also away at the Gold Cup where Canada opens Sunday against Martinique.




© 2021 The Canadian Press

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