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Cincinnati scores late goal to edge Toronto FC

FC Cincinnati's Brandon Vázquez FC Cincinnati's Brandon Vázquez - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — On the sixth anniversary of its 2017 Supporters' Shield clinching win, Toronto FC watched FC Cincinnati celebrate its first Major League Soccer regular-season championship at BMO Field.

Aaron Boupendza scored the game-winner in the 72nd minute to give visiting FC Cincinnati a 3-2 win and lock up the fifth-year franchise's first Supporters' Shield before 24,658 on Saturday.

Boupendza and his Cincinnati teammates sprayed each other with champagne and danced around the visitors' locker room.

"It's definitely not nice to see someone celebrate on your field," said TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who scored twice in the first half to help his team overcome a two-goal deficit.

"You tell them congratulations. They've had a good season. To win the Supporters' Shield exemplifies how good they were from February all the way to October. So they definitely deserve it."

TFC defeated the New York Red Bulls 4-2 at home to win its only Supporters' Shield on Sept. 30, 2017.

Boupendza took a short pass from Luciano Acosta inside the box to slip a left-footed goal into the bottom right side of the TFC goal. The regular-season clinching victory improved Cincinnati's (19-4-8) undefeated Major League Soccer streak to four games (2-0-2).

TFC (4-17-10) has lost four in a row, and has dropped 14 of its last 15 outings and is 1-10-1 in all competitions under interim head coach Terry Dunfield.

"I think they're a very good side that's well balanced, and they don't give you a ton and then keep coming and punish mistakes," Dunfield said.

"They're a top, top team and have found a way to win in this league."

But even though former Canadian men's and women's national team coach John Herdman assumes the TFC coaching portfolio on Sunday, this may not have been Dunfield's final game running TFC.

There has been speculation that Herdman wants Dunfield to coach TFC for its two games this week, and then Herdman will take over the reins for the season finale against Orlando City at home on Oct. 21.

Dunfield will remain on Herdman's coaching staff after the former's interim stint has concluded.

"I've been saying this for the last 15 weeks that I'm very fortunate to have had the opportunity," Dunfield said. "It's been tough for sure. But there's been some nice moments as well. I will need more time to breathe to go through it. I'm sure there's some stuff we do differently, too."

With three matches remaining, TFC has 22 points, its lowest point total since a 5-21-8 record produced 23 points in 2012. Cincinnati started swiftly with a pair of goals from striker Brandon Vazquez. The United States international lassoed a header from teammate Yerson Mosquera in the box to deposit the opener in the 28th minute.

Seven minutes later, Vazquez knocked in a rebound after TFC keeper Luka Gavran made a diving left arm from inside the box on Boupendza.

Cincinnati keeper Roman Celentano, who has 11 clean sheets this season, gave TFC a gift in the 39th minute. He mishandled a shot from outside the box from Federico Bernardeschi, and Osorio pounced on the loose ball to bring TFC within a goal.

The Canadian midfielder pulled TFC even in the 44th minute. With Boupendza rolling on the ground in pain on the right side, referee Alex Chilowicz allowed play to continue. Celentano got his left arm on a chip pass from Bernardeschi. But the ball caromed to Osorio for an easy header.

Gavran kept the score even in the first-half injury time by getting his left hand up to deflect Santiago Arias's attempt destined for the right corner over the goal. TFC was without Lorenzo Insigne, who was out with a lower-body ailment.

Toronto also lost Deandre Kerr and Latif Blessing to injury in the first and second half, respectively.


TFC travels to North Carolina to take on Charlotte FC on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 30, 2023.