Toronto FC snapped a six-game losing streak Saturday, defeating Nashville SC 2-1 on Omar Gonzalez's 79th-minute goal.
The six-foot-five defender managed to contort his body to get a leg to a Yeferson Soteldo free kick as he crashed the goal in front of the south stand at BMO Field. Soteldo took the free kick quickly after captain Michael Bradley put the ball down, a ploy Toronto has used to great effect in the past.
C.J. Sapong had tied the game up five minutes earlier, scoring his 81st career goal in his 300th MLS regular-season game. The goal survived a lengthy video review for offside, with Randall Leal getting the assist for feeding Sapong in front of goal after the Hany Mukhtar pass that prompted the review.
Jacob Shaffelburg had given Toronto the lead in the 18th minute.
It was the first win for Toronto (4-15-6) since July 24 (a 2-1 decision in Chicago) - and its first victory at BMO Field in seven games (1-2-4) since the club returned north of the border.
Nashville (10-3-11) suffered only its third loss of the MLS season.
Mired in the league basement, Toronto came into the game winless in nine (0-7-2) and stuck in its second six-game losing run of the season. The first cost coach Chris Armas his job on July 4.
Toronto had picked up just one point out of a possible 24 in eight matches since tying Nashville 1-1 on Aug. 1 at BMO Field. In contrast, Nashville had earned 14 out of a possible 21 in its seven subsequent outings (4-1-2).
Nashville, sitting second in the East after a 1-0 win in Montreal last weekend, arrived having won three straight and was unbeaten in five (4-0-1).
Toronto did not start any of its designated players with reigning league MVP Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore out injured and Soteldo on the bench. Soteldo, whom coach Javier Perez said had been ill during the week, came on in the 64th minute.
Toronto went ahead early on a beautiful goal by Shaffelburg, capping off an eight-pass buildup that started with goalkeeper Alex Bono. Brazilian fullback Auro found Shaffelburg with a long, looping ball behind the Nashville backline, with Canadian defender Alistair Johnston victimized on the play.
Shaffelburg danced around goalkeeper Joe Willis and slotted the ball home for his second career MLS goal. It came on Toronto's lone shot on target in the first half (Nashville had two).
And it was poetic justice for the 21-year-old from Port Williams, N.S., who was denied a legitimate goal Tuesday in a 1-0 loss to Inter Miami.
In that game, the on-field officials and video review could not confirm what most spectators and TV viewers saw - Shaffelburg's shot crossing the line before it was bundled out by the Miami 'keeper. TFC's official Twitter account couldn't resist a jab four days later, tweeting a video of Saturday's goal with the caption “Can confirm: It crossed the line.”
It was Toronto's first goal in 230 minutes - since Aug. 27. And it came after a nervy start from the home side, which gave the ball away repeatedly in the early going.
Bradley was cautioned in the 39th minute, meaning he will be suspended for the next MLS game for yellow card accumulation. TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio had a chance in the 42nd minute but his shot curled wide.
Nashville came out for the second half with purpose.
A diving Willis had to be sharp to push away a long-distance shot from Ifunanyachi Achara in the 48th minute. At the other end, Bono got a leg to a close-range shot from Sapong in the 59th. And two minutes later, Walker Zimmerman's powerful header off a corner crashed off the TFC crossbar.
Toronto coach Perez made four changes to his midweek team with Shaffelburg, Gonzalez, Eriq Zavaleta and Dom Dwyer coming in. Chris Mavinga and Soteldo dropped to the bench while Tsubasa Endoh was injured and Kemar Lawrence suspended after being red-carded last time out.
Former Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco watched the game from a box alongside Altidore.
Second-year Nashville came into the game unbeaten in three meetings with Toronto. The Tennessee team ended Toronto's 2020 season with a 1-0 first-round playoff victory, and defeated TFC 3-2 on June 23 at Nissan Stadium before the August draw.
Pozuelo (lower-body injury) was missing for a third straight game. Ayo Akinola and Ralph Priso were also out injured while Nick DeLeon and Jayden Nelson were sidelined by health and safety protocols.
The game featured an all-Canadian officiating crew with referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere, assistant referees Michael Barwegen and Lyes Arfa, fourth official David Gantar and VAR officials Carol Anne Chenard and Philippe Briere.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2021