Akinola, Pozuelo turn up the offence as Toronto FC defeats the Montreal Impact
Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola, front, scores his second goal of the game during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Montreal Impact, Thursday, July 16, 2020, in Kissimmee, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, July 16, 2020 10:14PM EDT
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Ayo Akinola scored three goals, upping his tournament total to five, and Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo had three assists as Toronto FC defeated the Montreal Impact 4-3 Thursday at the MLS is Back Tournament.
The win moved Toronto atop the Group C standings, at least for the night, with four points from two games, while the future looks bleak for pointless Montreal.
It was another wild night involving Canadian teams at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex, although this time the fireworks were largely limited to the first half. San Jose rallied late Wednesday to edge the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-3.
Algerian international Saphir Taider made things interesting, converting his second penalty on the night in the 95th minute after video review confirmed a Laurent Ciman handball.
Richie Laryea also scored for Toronto. Honduran international Romell Quioto had the other Montreal goal.
Akinola, who had one goal in 12 games spread over the two previous seasons, has made the most of the chance to fill in for Jozy Altidore so far at the tournament. The 20-year-old joins Tosaint Ricketts as the only TFC players to score two or more goals in consecutive MLS matches. Ricketts, now with the Whitecaps, did it in September 2017.
Pozuelo, meanwhile, has set up five of the six Toronto goals at the tournament.
Laryea opened the scoring in the eighth minute, taking a fine pass from Pozuelo down the left flank before eluding Shamit Shome to fire a low right-footed shot past Clement Diop.
Quioto replied in the 14th minute after Argentine midfielder Emanuel Maciel, in his first Impact start, sliced open the Toronto defence with a long ball. Quioto outpaced the chasing Omar Gonzalez and slid the ball past Quentin Westberg.
Akinola restored the TFC lead in the 25th minute, capping off a slick nine-pass sequence that started back in the Toronto end when Gonzalez headed away a Montreal cross to Laryea, who had to fight his way out of the corner.
Michael Bradley eventually found Auro on the right flank and the Brazilian combined with Pablo Piatti and Pozuelo, who slid in a perfectly weighted low cross for Akinola to knock in.
Montreal was awarded a penalty when a sliding Chris Mavinga brought down Quioto. Taider converted the spot kick in the 37th minute.
Toronto scored less than a minute later from the ensuing kickoff, with Akinola taking another perfect Pozuelo pass and outmuscling a defender before beating Diop.
Akinola scored his third in the 83rd minute, bundling aside a defender after taking a Nick DeLeon flick-on from a Westberg goal kick before chipping Diop.
Toronto took a more defensive approach as the second half wore on, with Toronto looking to absorb the pressure. Unlike the opening game, the defence stood tall with Westberg leading the way.
Both teams were coming off disappointing opening matches. The Impact managed just two shots on target in a 1-0 loss to New England while Toronto gave up a pair of late goals, including a stoppage-time equalizer, in a 2-2 tie with 10-man D.C. United.
Montreal had six days preparation for Thursday's match while Toronto, whose opener was pushed back because of the team's late arrival in Florida, had two.
Toronto made one change to its starting 11 with Laryea in at left fullback for Justin Morrow, who exited at halftime of the D.C. United game because of Achilles tendinitis. Altidore, who is working his way back to fitness, and midfielder Jonathan Osorio, who has a quad strain, did not dress for the second game in a row.
Thierry Henry made four changes, taking out Maciel, Quioto, Shome and Jorge Corrales for Rudy Camacho, Rod Fanni, Orji Okwonkwo and Spain's Bojan.
Kenyan international Victor Wanyama dropped into the backline from the midfield.
Camacho returned to Montreal to be with his wife who is about to give birth.
Toronto had a couple of early chances with Pozuelo's shot deflecting off a defender after a nifty backheel from Piatti in the fifth minute. Bradley fired wide off the ensuing corner. Impact defender Luis Binks' header hit the post off a corner just before halftime.
Henry brought on Fanni at halftime in a bid to steady the defence.
Both teams wrap up group play Tuesday with Toronto facing New England and Montreal meeting D.C. United.
The three group games count in the regular-season standings, leaving Toronto at 2-0-2 and Montreal at 1-2-1.
Toronto is now unbeaten in its last 13 regular-season outings (5-0-8). Its last regular-season loss was Aug. 3, 2019 - a 2-0 defeat at the New York Red Bulls.
In other tournament news, MLS reported Thursday there had been no positive COVID-19 tests from the 1,124 people tested Tuesday and Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2020.