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Spicer, Owusu score late goals to lift Toronto FC to comeback win in Orlando

Toronto FC Celebrates Toronto FC Celebrates - The Canadian Press

ORLANDO, Fla. — Comeback wins have been hard to come by for Toronto FC in recent times. So has success against Orlando City.

John Herdman's team managed both Saturday as late goals by Tyrese Spicer and Prince Owusu, with Italian Federico Bernardeschi serving as playmaker, rallied Toronto to a dramatic 2-1 victory over Orlando in Major League Soccer play.

Duncan McGuire put Orlando ahead in the 37th minute, only to see Spicer tie it in the 87th minute and Owusu score the winner in the 90th.

The result moved Toronto (5-4-1) into fourth place in the Eastern Conference, which Herdman acknowledged was the team's goal over the first 10 games of the season. The coach said goalkeeper Sean Johnson spoke of it in the post-game huddle.

"He let the lads know. We hit our target after the first 10 games," Herdman related. "We're right in touch with that top four. So I'm proud of them. They committed tonight. The pre-game conversations, they made some commitments as a collective and individually. Watching them live that was a proud moment as a coach.

"I mean hey, we're 10 games into the season. We haven't won the FA Cup or Champions League but we're going to celebrate and enjoy this moment," he added with a smile. "Because it's one of the first times I think this team's come back for a long time and won."

It was Toronto's first win after conceding the first goal since a 2-1 decision over the Philadelphia Union on April 16, 2022. TFC went 0-18-1 last year in regular-season play when scored on first and was 0-3-0 this season in the same scenario.

TFC finished last in the league in 2023 at 4-20-10.

Bernardeschi has started every game this season and worked hard but had yet to get on the scoresheet before Saturday. The two assists were the first of the campaign for the former Juventus man.

"To be honest, I can't even find words to describe how important he has been to this group," Johnson said of Bernardeschi.

"He's really taken a responsibility on his shoulder in a big way," he added. "I'm really proud to be his teammate and really proud to share the pitch."

Orlando had seemed headed to victory thanks to McGuire's first-half strike. But Bernardeschi's long ball found Kobe Franklin on the right of the penalty box and his cross was headed in by Spicer in the 87th minute.

Three minutes later, Owusu headed in Bernardeschi's cross for his fifth goal in his last four games across all competitions.

The German forward, who has scored five of Toronto's 11 league goals this season, celebrated by pretending to place a crown on his head and then bringing his finger to his mouth to silence the crowd.

The late Toronto goals were a taste of Orlando's own medicine.

Orlando had shown a never-say-die attitude in its three previous games, scoring in the 92nd minute to tie CF Montreal 2-2 last time out, in the 91st minute of a 3-2 win at D.C. United, and securing a 1-1 draw with the visiting New York Red Bulls courtesy of an 89th-minute own goal.

This time, the late heroics went the other way.

Toronto outshot Orlando 13-8 (4-3 in shots in target). TFC's XG (expected goals) was 1.3 compared to 1.1 for Orlando.

Toronto had a lot of the ball in the early going, with Orlando (2-4-3) looking to threaten on the counterattack. And while both teams managed just one shot on goal in the first half, Orlando scored on its shot.

McGuire put the home side ahead in the 37th minute, knocking home a well-flighted Facundo Torres cross after centre back Robin Jansson's long pass found the Uruguayan designated player down the left flank.

McGuire has had success against Toronto, with four goals in three meetings.

McGuire scored again, with a howitzer-like shot from inside the penalty box, in first-half stoppage time only to see the offside flag go up.

TFC snapped an eight-game winless streak against Orlando (0-6-2) dating back to 2019. Orlando had won the four previous games by an aggregate score of 11-0.

Toronto is unbeaten in three games (2-0-1) in all competitions after a three-game league slide.

The Florida team, which had to divide its time between league and CONCACAF Champions Cup play earlier to open the campaign, had a rough 0-3-1 start to the MLS season before steadying the ship with a 2-2-0 run in the lead-up to Saturday's match.

Herdman made three changes to his starting lineup from last weekend's 1-0 win over visiting New England. Kevin Long, Alonso Coello and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty slotted in for Franklin, Matty Longstaff and Spicer.

Toronto was without the injured Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania and Shane O’Neill.

Newly acquired winger Derrick Etienne Jr. came on for Toronto in the 58th minute.


TFC hosts FC Dallas next Saturday while Orlando welcomes FC Cincinnati.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 27, 2024.