• Sporting Kansas City 2 (Gutierrez 25’, 73’), Toronto FC 2 (De Leon 43’, Hamilton 90’+5’)
• Jordan Hamilton scores in injury time to salvage draw for TFC
• Reds now winless in 7 games, with 4 losses and 3 draws
TORONTO – When does a draw feel like a win?
When you’re Toronto FC, and you’re struggling for points.
Second-half substitute Jordan Hamilton came to the rescue on Friday night, scoring deep into injury time to allow TFC to earn a 2-2 draw against Sporting Kansas City before an announced crowd of 24,748 at BMO Field.
With this draw, the Reds are 5-6-4 on the MLS season, and are now winless in seven consecutive matches (with four losses). Toronto’s previous victory came on May 8, which must seem like ages ago in light of the side’s recent poor run of results.
TFC will take the point, but this stalemate was an especially bitter pill to swallow for the Reds, as both of Sporting’s goals came from the penalty spot following reviews by referee Fotis Bazakos after he consulted with the officials in the Video Assistant Referee booth.
Toronto’s next game isn’t until June 22 when it visits FC Dallas. One would think there’s going to be some soul searching within the team over the next two weeks, and questions will be asked as to what they have to do to stop this downward spiral.
“We’re hungry. We’re determined. This group has a lot of character. We have some limits and things we need to work on… We’ll work on what we need to work on during the break, heal up a little bit, and be ready for some important summer months coming up,” veteran defender Drew Moor promised.
He later added: “The character and courage we showed to come away [with a point] after going behind twice with two equalizers is the most important thing to take away from tonight.”
TFC coach Greg Vanney kept his composure, but was fuming in the post-match press conference when asked about the officiating on the night, describing the decision that led to K.C.’s first goal from the penalty spot as “disgraceful”
“I’m exhausted tonight, and it wasn’t because of my team, let me put it that way,” Vanney admitted.
“I’m proud of the guys for fighting until the end. There’s a lot of reasons [for them] to be frustrated through the course of this game, but they kept pushing, kept looking for goals and looking answers. Goals change games and the first call was disgraceful.”
Bazakos deflected when Sportsnet informed him of Vanney’s comments about the first penalty decision, declining to offer a reply.
TFC was without captain Michael Bradley, forward Jozy Altidore, midfielder Jonathan Osorio and fellow Canadian Ashtone Morgan, who are all on international duty at the moment. Also missing were fullback Auro Jr. and defender Chris Mavinga (both out with hamstring injuries).
With so many absences, TFC recalled Ryan Telfer from his loan with York9 FC. The Canadian midfielder was scheduled to return to the CPL club after Friday’s game and resume his loan stint.
After a furious, attacking start by the visitors in the opening 10 minutes, Sporting goalkeeper Tim Melia was called into action early when he made a smart save off an Eric Zavaleta header deep inside the box.
Moor, making his 100th appearance for TFC in all competitions, was judged to have pulled down Sporting forward Gerso Fernandes on a play that was flagged by the VAR booth and then reviewed pitch-side by Bazakos. Felipe Gutierrez converted the ensuing penalty to give K.C. the lead. Opposing teams have now scored on 17 of their last 18 penalty attempts vs. TFC.
Bazakos originally called the foul outside the box, but after VAR alerted him and he reviewed it, he changed his mind, feeling Moor dragged down Fernandes inside the penalty area. Vanney’s irritation with Bazakos was that he felt it wasn’t even a foul.
“[Fernandes] is falling off balance, he’s not going to get back to the ball and he tumbles over… I do think if [the ref] even thinks it’s in the box, I don’t think he even comes close to [calling it]. I think he lets it go. It’s that soft,” Vanney opined.
Bazakos defended his changing the call from a free kick outside the box to a penalty kick.
“The [VAR] sent me a video angle from right along the 18 [yard box] and that angle showed that the contact was right on the line so that makes it a penalty kick,” Bazakos explained.
Toronto didn’t sit by idly, and picked up the pace of its attack after conceding. A quick give-and-go sequence between Justin Morrow and Marky Delgado down the left side ended with Morrow flashing his low shot from across the box just past the far post. A Liam Fraser header off an Alejandro Pozuelo free kick forced another great save by Melia, and it looked like it was going to be one of those nights for the Reds.
But their persistence paid off just before halftime on a pretty passing play started by Pozuelo and ended with Nick De Leon slotting home the ball off a low cross played to the far post by Morrow.
Toronto doubled down on its attacking intent to start the second half, forcing K.C. on the back foot. But another VAR decision and review by Bazakos, this time on a tackle by De Leon on Gutierrez, led to the awarding of a second penalty that the Sporting midfielder duly blasted past TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg.
“It was a tripping call. It shows from the angle of the back-right side [that] you can see De Leon comes in makes the tackle, misses the ball and catches [Gutierrez] in the leg. So, it’s tripping the last defender, yellow card for challenging the ball, but denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity,” Bazakos explained.
Another loss appeared to be on the cards, but Pozuelo found Telfer inside the penalty area, and he fed a pass across the box for fellow substitute Hamilton, and the Canadian made no mistake in firing home deep into injury time.
“I was feeling that their defenders couldn’t keep up with me or Telfer,” Hamilton said. “Before that play, me and Telfer were a little too far apart. Greg was screaming us from the sidelines to come closer together.
“As soon as we did, then Pozuelo plays a great ball to Telfer and he squares a lovely pass and I’m just there to do my job.”
NOTES: K.C. leads the all-time MLS series against Toronto, with 14 wins and eight draws in 26 contests. This was the only meeting this season between the clubs… TFC held a viewing party after Friday’s game where fans were invited to remain at BMO Field and watch Game 4 of the NBA finals between the Raptors and Golden State Warriors on the big screen scoreboard… Friday was also TFC’s third annual “Pride Night.”