Pozuelo scores winner as Toronto FC rallies to defeat Union

Toronto FC's Alejandro Pozuelo, top, pressures Philadelphia Union's Jose "El Brujo" Martinez during the first half of an MLS soccer match. (Jessica Hill/AP)

EAST HARTFORD -- Ayo Akinola and Alejandro Pozuelo scored second-half goals to lift Toronto FC to a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union in MLS play Saturday.

The winning goal came in the 76th minute after Chris Mavinga flicked on a header from a corner to an unmarked Pozuelo at the far post for his seventh of the season and fourth in as many games.

It marked the fourth game-winning goal of the season for Pozuelo, who was voted MLS player of the month in September. The Spanish playmaker, making a strong case for MVP honours, came into weekend play with a league-leading nine assists.

Toronto (9-2-4) extended its winning streak to three and unbeaten run to five (4-0-1) as it mounted its second comeback win in a week. TFC rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to defeat Columbus 3-1 last Sunday.

Saturday's win may have come at a cost, however. Toronto lost both fullback Justin Morrow and striker Jozy Altidore to injury during the match.

Sergio Santos scored for Philadelphia (8-3-4), which saw its five-game unbeaten streak snapped.

The game, the second at TFC's pandemic home of Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, was the first of five in 16 days for Toronto. Next up are New England, Cincinnati, the Red Bulls and Atlanta.

The Union went ahead in the fifth minute on the game's first shot. Mavinga's attempted header clearance went to a Philadelphia player who sent the ball towards Santos. The Brazilian outpaced defender Omar Gonzalez, who flubbed a clearance, and chipped goalkeeper Quentin Westberg from a tight angle.

Toronto had almost 65 per cent of possession in the first half but that translated into just one shot on target.

Akinola tied it in the 58th minute, the beneficiary of two fine long-range passes -- the first from Marky Delgado and then the set-up from substitute Tony Gallacher. The Scottish fullback floated a perfect cross for Akinola, splitting the centre backs, to beat Andre Blake with a header.

Akinola's seventh of the season, on just Toronto's second shot on target on the night, ended the Jamaican international 'keeper's shutout streak at 323 minutes.

Toronto fielded an unchanged lineup from the side that beat Columbus, rallying in the second half in arguably the club's finest 45 minutes of the season. The TFC travelling party chartered home after the game, returning to Hartford on Wednesday.

Philadelphia was buoyed by the return of captain Alejandro Bedoya from suspension.

Barring a 2-1 semifinal loss to eventual champion Portland at the MLS is Back Tournament in August, the Union had been beaten just once -- 1-0 to Columbus on Sept. 2 -- since dropping its 2020 season opener 2-0 at FC Dallas on Feb. 29.

Down 1-0 early, Toronto had a chance to equalize in the seventh minute but Blake made a smart save with his leg to deny Mavinga from close-range after a corner.

Toronto screamed for a penalty in the 21st when Richie Laryea went down in the penalty box but referee Victor Rivas' no-call was backed by video review.

Westberg made a marvellous save in the 30th minute, flying through the air to push Dutch-born Cape Verde international Jamiro Monteiro's long-range shot off the crossbar. He then stopped Kacper Przybylko on the rebound but the play was called offside.

Morrow, who turns 33 Sunday, gave way to Gallacher in the 39th minute after going down. A trainer iced his right calf on the sidelines as the veteran fullback held his head in his hands. Altidore exited early in the 53rd minute after grabbing the back of his left thigh as he went for a ball.

Pablo Piatti had a glorious chance to put Toronto ahead in the 71st, after a fine setup from Laryea, but his shot flashed just wide.

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