TFC comes from behind twice in wild draw vs. D.C. United

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco (10) is taken down by D.C. United defender Frederic Brilliant. (Frank Gunn/CP)

• D.C. United 4 (Asad 12’ and 90’, Arriola 17’, Mattocks 45’), Toronto FC 4 (Osorio 56’, Vazquez 64’, Hagglund 86’ and 90’ + 2’)
• Michael Bradley: “These are games that we should win”
• TFC players booed off pitch after dreadful 1st half

TORONTO – What a crazy game.

Toronto FC came from behind on two occasions to earn a 4-4 draw against D.C. United on Wednesday night before 23,011 spectators in one of the wildest games ever played at BMO Field.

Down 3-0 after an absolutely dreadful opening half, TFC fought back to score three consecutive goals in the second half, with the equalizer coming from Nick Hagglund in the 86th minute. D.C. retook the lead just four minutes later, only for Hagglund to bail out the Reds a second time by scoring another equalizer in injury time.

Moral victories are fine, but TFC could use the genuine kind right about now, as they fell to 4-7-3 on the season and dropped one spot in the standings, into second-last place in the Eastern Conference.

As great as this comeback was it doesn’t disguise the fact that the Reds couldn’t beat the last-place team in the East, and the second-worst side in MLS. Furthermore, Toronto squandered a golden opportunity to close the gap to two points on Orlando City, who hold down the sixth and final playoff spot in the East. Toronto did make up ground on Orlando, who lost to Montreal on Wednesday night, but all things considered, this felt like a loss, rather than a draw.

Toronto coach Greg Vanney offered a different view.

“A wild game, but given the way it started, we can’t be too picky about [only] taking a point from this one,” Vanney told reporters after the game.

Returning left fullback Justin Morrow saw both sides of it, acknowledging that D.C. is a team Toronto should beat, but also feeling the Reds showed a lot of character in coming back after such a disastrous start.

“You have to take both the negatives and the positives in this one. They’re both learning points, because we can’t go down like that in the first half,” Morrow said.

Captain Michael Bradley laid the truth bare, though, admitting, “These are games that we should win.”

He later added: “We need to win games, right? We all know that. … We take this [result] for what it is, and we have to recharge mentally and physically, and come back ready to look at ourselves in a real honest way, and make sure that as we move [forward] in the second half of the season that we rediscover a little bit of life and energy and enthusiasm.”

Defender Eriq Zavaleta was in TFC’s starting 11 on Wednesday night, making his first appearance since May 18 after being sidelined with a quad issue. Bothered by a problem calf, Morrow entered the game as second-half substitute for his first MLS appearance since the first day of the season. Notable absences for the Reds were defenders Drew Moor and Chris Mavinga, midfielder Marky Delgado and forward Jozy Altidore.

Toronto started strong out of the gate, with Victor Vazquez and Nico Hasler carving out early scoring chances. But as the game wore on, the hosts looked slow and laboured, and were routinely burned by D.C.’s quick counterattack.

D.C. opened the scoring against the run of play, putting together a pretty, multi-pass sequence that ended with Yamil Asad beating goalkeeper Alex Bono from close range in the middle of the box off a feed from Luciano Acosta.

The visitors doubled their advantage minutes later when Zoltán Stieber was allowed to gallop down the left flank before floating a perfect cross into the box where Paul Arriola connected on a gorgeous, diving header that sailed past Bono. D.C. added a third just before halftime, with Darren Mattocks slotting his shot past Bono after Zavaleta was caught in possession inside his penalty area.

Vanney bemoaned his team’s inability to play out from the back and stretch D.C. on the attack in the first half. He also felt his team was too slow to clear balls, played too many back passes and made some poor choices.

TFC was loudly booed off the pitch as they made their way down the player tunnel for the break. It was more than justified – fans at BMO Field witnessed one of the worst 45-minute periods from the Reds in recent memory.

“It was tough,” Morrow said of the boos.

Maybe the players got the message from the fans. TFC looked like a completely different team after the restart, playing with pace and urgency, forcing the issue in the final third of the pitch, and putting D.C. under sustained pressure.

It also helped matters that Vanney changed the team’s shape, and asked Gregory van der Wiel and Auro Jr. to start building the attack, rather than relying on Hagglund and Zavaleta to make the first pass out from the back. The introduction of Morrow also bolstered the team’s fortunes going forward.

“It was an aggressive, relentless second half,” Vanney said.

Toronto pulled a goal back when Vazquez released Ryan Telfer down the left, and the youngster centred a pass for fellow Canadian Jonathan Osorio, who hammered a powerful shot home from the middle of the box. It was Osorio’s team-leading fifth goal of the campaign.

Vazquez made it a one-goal game shortly after, scoring on a rebound when he hit a sweet one-timer off a Sebastian Giovinco attempt that came off the post.

The Reds completed the comeback late in regulation when Hagglund connected on a header off a cross supplied by Morrow.

Asad scored into an empty net in the 90th minute after a defensive breakdown, giving D.C. a 4-3 lead and stunning the BMO Field crowd into silence. But the game took yet another turn when Hagglund tied things up for Toronto in injury time off a setup from Osorio.

“Five minutes left in the game, and Greg says abandon centre back and head forward. I just got in the box and waited for some great balls,” Hagglund said of his pair of late goals.

NOTES: D.C. leads the all-time series against Toronto, with 13 wins and six draws in 29 meetings… TFC returns to action on June 24 against New York City at Yankee Stadium.

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