Toronto FC prevails over Galaxy, Ibrahimovic’s stunning goal

Zlatan Ibrahimovic talked about Michael Bradley needing to take a page out of his rule book, and giving Toronto fans the privilege of watching him score a milestone goal. (Courtesy: LA Galaxay)

• Los Angeles Galaxy 3 (Ibrahimovic 43; Kamara 54’; Feltscher 58’), Toronto FC 5 (Vazquez 5’; Altidore 16’; Giovinco 36’; Osorio 75’; Chapman 90’+3’)
• TFC keeps meagre playoff hopes alive with win
• Ibrahimovic scores 500th goal in stunning style

TORONTO — It wasn’t a pretty display, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Toronto FC squandered a three-goal lead before pulling out a 5-3 victory over the LA Galaxy on Saturday night at BMO Field in a game that will forever be remembered for a moment of pure magic from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Much like he has been for most of this MLS season, Canadian Jonathan Osorio was the hero for TFC, scoring the late winner after the Galaxy rallied from three goals down to level the score.

All of the pre-game buzz was about Ibrahimovic, and the Super Swede did not disappoint, as he scored his 500th career goal for club and country on a play that is destined to be repeated over and over again on TV highlight shows.

Tensions nearly boiled over on the field before the final whistle when Ibrahimovic and Toronto captain Michael Bradley had what appeared to be an ill-tempered tête-à-tête. Not content with simply creating fireworks on the pitch with his fantastic goal, Ibrahimovic delivered an equally stunning rebuke of Bradley when speaking to the media after the game.

“He thinks he’s a philosopher of football. I have more goals than he has [played] games, so he should follow my rules,” Ibrahimovic said.

Bradley brushed aside a reporter’s question after the match when asked about the confrontation, replying that he wasn’t worried about Ibrahimovic.

Saturday’s victory allowed TFC to improve its record to 8-14-6, but Montreal’s 4-1 win in Philadelphia on Saturday night means the Reds still trail the Impact for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference by nine points with six games left in the regular season.

Even if Toronto did somehow manage to squeak into the post-season – it’s not going to happen – what could be expected of a side that continues to leak goals like a sieve? Last year, TFC boasted one of the league’s best back lines. This season, the Reds are conceding goals at an alarming rate – 55 in 28 games. You’re not going to win many games, never mind go far in the playoffs, with such a porous defensive record.

Still, TFC didn’t seemed too bothered by its defending on the night, and was instead buoyant about picking up the win.

“Everything was on the line and there was only one result that was going to work for us,” Bradley stated. “Not perfect by any means but at this point, we’re not necessarily looking for perfect.”

Like his captain, Toronto coach Greg Vanney saw the glass as half full.

“The goal today was to get three points and stay in the [playoff] mix, and we got it. It wasn’t exactly how we drew it up …. But I like the fact we were resilient,” Vanney offered.

Toronto was without Chris Mavinga and Auro Jr. (long-term hamstring injuries), as well as fellow defender Drew Moor (minor calf strain). As a result, Bradley shifted from the midfield and started in the centre of a three-man defence, flanked by Nick Hagglund and Eriq Zavaleta. After being on the bench for the last two games, starter Alex Bono was back in goal.

TFC stormed out of the gate, with Victor Vazquez opening the scoring by easily slipping past LA’s defenders and connecting on a header off a beautiful cross played into the box by Gregory van der Wiel. Jozy Altidore doubled the Reds’ advantage with a low shot inside the far post after the LA defence failed to clear its lines. Sebastian Giovinco made it 3-0 just before half, firing past helpless Galaxy goalkeeper David Bingham off a gorgeous setup from van der Wiel.

Ibrahimovic scored a highlight-reel goal just before halftime, nonchalantly pirouetting as a high ball came to him inside the box before hitting a spectacular back-heel flick shot that sailed past Bono. It was easily one of the best goals ever witnessed at BMO Field, a fact acknowledged by the TFC fans who deservedly gave the Swede a standing ovation.

“Instinct. I mean, those things you don’t plan. It’s impossible to plan. The way it came, I just tried to get it on goal,” Ibrahimovic stated.

“That was a pretty unique finish,” Bono said. “I’ve never had a goal scored on me like that before.”

Ola Kamara made it a one-goal game early in the second half. TFC’s defence didn’t pick up Kamara inside the penalty area, and he was allowed to nod home off a free kick from teammate Jonathan dos Santos. The Galaxy continued to feast on slack defending minutes later when Ashley Cole picked out Rolf Feltscher inside the box, and the defender headed it past Bono to tie things up.

Osorio restored Toronto’s lead late in the game, squeezing between a pair of LA defenders and heading Marky Delgado’s pinpoint cross played to the edge of the six-yard box past Bingham.

Fellow Canadian Jay Chapman put the game away deep into injury time with a low drive that nestled inside the post.

NOTES: LA leads the all-time MLS series against Toronto, with six wins and six draws in 17 meetings… TFC hosts Mexican side Tigres next Wednesday at BMO Field in the inaugural Campeones Cup, a new competition contested between the reigning champions of MLS and Mexico’s Liga MX.

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