TORONTO - The curse, as coach John Herdman put it, is over. And Toronto FC's winning streak continues.

Italian star Federico Bernardeschi ended a lengthy scoreless drought with a pair of goals and added an assist Saturday to help Toronto defeat FC Dallas 3-1 in MLS play, extending TFC's string of wins to four games in all competitions.

Bernardeschi had been shut out in 19 games since scoring twice in a 3-2 loss to CF Montreal on Aug. 20.

“The curse is broken,” a smiling Herdman said after the game.

Bernardeschi, a stylish attacker who has played a variety of roles this season, has been an influential figure for TFC. And the former Juventus man was a threat all night Saturday before an announced crowd of 24,257 at BMO Field.

But goals seemed to still be eluding him.

Bernardeschi appeared to have changed that in the 39th minute when, receiving the ball from Jonathan Osorio just inside the penalty box, he pivoted and sent a low shot past Dutch-born goalkeeper Maarten Paes.

But the Italian's celebration was short-lived as referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere, after being summoned to the pitch-side monitor by the video assistant referee, waved the goal off for offside.

Bernardeschi got a second bite at the apple in first-half stoppage time when Lauziere pointed to the penalty spot after Osorio went down in a challenge from Patrickson Delgado, who had seemed to get the ball.

The penalty call survived video review with Bernardeschi standing over the ball, waiting to take the spot kick. Paes made the save but could not get to the rebound and the Italian knocked it home.

“We had a chuckle at halftime,” said Herdman. “I think that curse that was on him was lifted. And it showed in the second half.”

There was no mistake with Bernardeschi's second goal, a highlight-reel banger in the 52nd minute that saw the Italian cut to his left and hammer a shot into the top corner from outside the penalty box.

Bernardeschi did not speak to the media after the match.

Substitute Matty Longstaff added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute, his first in MLS, with an assist from Bernardeschi and Tyrese Spicer. Longstaff's older brother, Sean, scored for Newcastle United earlier in the day in a 4-1 win over Burnley in English Premier League play.

Herdman, who grew up outside Newcastle, is a diehard fan. He says he and Matty Longstaff, who also played for Newcastle, often text each other when watching the English team.

Herdman said he sent Matty a text earlier in the day saying: “Look your bro scored, so I fancy you scoring tonight.” He also made sure the younger Longstaff got the game ball.

Sam Junqua scored a consolation goal for Dallas in the 87th minute.

The win moved Toronto (6-4-1) up one spot to third in the Eastern Conference. With 19 points, it is just three off TFCs entire total last season, when it finished last in the league at 4-20-10.

Dallas (2-6-2) was outshot 13-6 (6-2 in shots on target) in its first trip to BMO Field since 2018.

The Texas side arrived on the back of a 2-0 win over Houston which ended a seven-game winless run that followed a 2-1 win over San Jose in the Feb. 24 season opener.

It marked the first meeting between the two teams since February 2022 when they drew 1-1 in Frisco, Texas. Toronto had not beaten Dallas since a 1-0 decision in July 2016 at BMO Field, going 0-3-1 since against the Texans.

Herdman made two changes to his starting 11, giving newly acquired winger Derrick Etienne Jr. his first start and Spicer.

The club had no comment on a report that it has reached a mutual agreement with Canadian forward Ayo Akinola to terminate his contract. But such a move would not come as a surprise given the 24-year-old has seen just 82 minutes of playing time in the league this season spread over five appearances.

Akinola, whose contract runs through 2023 with an option for 2025, made US$771,875 last season.

Canadian international midfielder Liam Fraser, a former Toronto homegrown player, started for Dallas with former TFC defender Omar Gonzalez on the bench.

Toronto was forced to withdraw Raoul Petretta in the 16th minute after a nasty tackle from Croatian forward Peter Musa.

Both teams were missing players through injuries.

Toronto was without Lorenzo Insigne, Richie Laryea, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Shane O'Neill and Brandon Servania. The club signed TFC 2 forward Jesus Batiz to an MLS short-term agreement for the game for some insurance.

Dallas was missing Geovane Jesus, Amet Korca, Sebastian Lletget, Paxton Pomykal and Argentine designated player Alan Velasco.

Toronto plays at CS Saint-Laurent on Wednesday in Canadian Championship quarterfinal play before hosting New York City FC on Saturday. Dallas entertains USL Championship side Memphis 901 FC in U.S. Open Cup round-of-32 play Tuesday.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2024