Insigne, Bernardeschi score as Toronto FC ends Portland Timbers’ unbeaten run

Toronto FC midfielder Federico Bernardeschi (10) battles for the ball against Portland Timbers defender Claudio Bravo (5) during first half MLS Soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, August 13, 2022. (Andrew Lahodynskyj/CP)

Late goals by Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi lifted Toronto FC to a 3-1 Major League Soccer win over Portland on Saturday night, ending the Timbers unbeaten run at 10 games.

Captain Michael Bradley made Insigne’s goal in the 79th minute, scooping the ball into the penalty box toward Insigne. His pass bounced off a defender and Insigne swung his leg, slotting it home. The goal was well deserved for Insigne, who had been dangerous all game long.

Then, after a marvellous save by Portland’s Slovenian goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic on substitute Ayo Akinola, Bernardeschi scored with a curling left footed shot in the 85th.

Bernardeschi now has three goals in four games while Insigne has two.

Toronto could have scored more on the night, coming at the Portland defence in waves on Canadian Armed Forces Night before an appreciative sellout crowd of 28,598 at BMO Field.

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Ivacic was a standout, keeping the Timbers in the game until the Italian duo struck.

Josecarlos Van Rankin’s goal in the 73rd minute had looked to earn the visitors a tie. Toronto had been in control of the match, pulling ahead on Jonathan Osorio’s team-leading ninth goal of the season in the 41st minute.

Portland pulled even after Yimmi Chara sent the ball toward the penalty box and veteran playmaker Sebastian Blanco flicked it on to fellow Mexican Van Rankin, who beat Alex Bono for his first MLS goal.

TFC (8-12-5) is now unbeaten in four games (3-0-1), collecting 10 of a possible 12 points with Insigne and Bernardeschi leading the way. The club had managed just eight points in its previous 14 league games (2-10-2) dating back to mid-April.

The Timbers (7-7-12) were coming off successive ties against Minnesota, Nashville and Dallas and had gone 4-0-6 in previous their 10 outings, making for the longest active unbeaten streak in MLS. Their last loss was May 28, a 2-1 setback at Inter Miami. 

Toronto had the best chances of the first half, turning up the pressure as the game wore on. That produced a goal in the 41st minute when, after a nice give-and-go with Insigne, Richie Laryea cut into the box, danced past defender Claudio Bravo and fed an open Osorio, who slotted the ball home for his team-leading ninth goal of the season — and fifth in six games.

The shifty Laryea, marking his return to BMO Field since returning on loan from Nottingham Forest, is a penalty waiting to happen when he enters the opposition penalty box.

Toronto outshot Portland 12-1 (6-0 in shots on target) on the first half with 57.2 per cent possession..

Portland went into weekend play in seventh spot in the Western Conference, just above the playoff line.

Toronto was 13th in the East but just four points out of the playoffs. Still, there were five teams — Orlando, Miami, New England, Charlotte and Atlanta — between TFC and seventh-place Chicago, which held down the last post-season berth.

Insigne showed his skills in the seventh minute, turning neatly to fire a shot that Ivacic handled. And, in the 13th minute, Insigne sent a seeing-eye pass through a defender’s legs to Bernardeschi whose shot from a tight angle went off Ivacic.

All three Italians almost connected in the 16th with a marvellous cross-field pass from Bernardeschi to Insigne, who then just missed finding an onrushing Domenico Criscito.

Toronto began to press with Jayden Nelson and Osorio getting chances but both firing off-target.

Insigne’s curling corner hit the crossbar near the back post in the 22nd minute. Toronto came close three minutes later with Nelson’s shot hitting a defender and Insigne’s shot off the ensuing rebound bouncing off Ivacic. Soon after Toronto striker Jesus Jimenez’s shot from inside the Portland box hit another defender.

An unmarked Insigne had a clean shot on goal in the 35th but the Italian skied his shot.

Ivacic stopped Insigne’s shot in the 44th minute with Jimenez’s attempted bicycle kick shot second later off the rebound hitting a defender.

Ivacic made a desperate one-handed save on Insigne’s bouncing shot from a Bernardeschi free kick in the 47th minute.

Portland’s first shot on target came in the 55th minute, prompting a fine save from Alex Bono, who got his legs in front of Yimmi Chara’s effort.

Insigne almost scored in the 60th, but his shot went just wide. Ten minutes later, Ivacic made a wonderful stop on Akinola after Bernardeschi put him in alone with a perfect pass.

Referee Nima Saghafi’s call of the game seemed to displease both sides, with plenty of protests over both calls and non-calls.

Saturday marked the teams’ first meeting since April 2019 when the Timbers won 2-1 for the first time in six career visits (1-4-1) to BMO Field. Portland had won the last two matchups with TFC’s last victory a 4-1 decision at BMO Field on Aug. 12, 2017, when Toronto topped the league in its championship season.

Only Bradley, Osorio, goalkeeper Quentin Westberg and defender Chris Mavinga remain from the Toronto starters that day.

Toronto midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye, who had missed the last previous games with a lower body injury, had a pre-match fitness test but did not dress.

Toronto hosts New England on Wednesday before visiting Inter Miami next Saturday.

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