TORONTO - Italian star Federico Bernardeschi curled in a corner for a memorable opening goal, but Toronto FC squandered a two-goal lead and had to settle for a 2-2 Major League Soccer tie with Charlotte FC on Saturday.

Polish international Kamil Jozwiak set up one goal and scored another to key Charlotte's second-half surge, helped by a stiff wind at its back at BMO Field.

Toronto's Brandon Servania seemed to have delivered a carbon copy of Bernardeschi's goal off a corner from the other side in the 40th minute but the play was waved off for a foul on Charlotte goalkeeper George Marks.

Michael Bradley used his head to score off another Servania corner - TFC's eighth of the first half - in the 44th minute, a goal that survived video review.

Ben Bender pulled one back for Charlotte in the 51st minute, coming in late into the penalty box to slot home a fine cross by Jozwiak. It was the first goal Toronto goalkeeper Sean Johnson had conceded in 246 minutes - and Charlotte's first-ever goal against TFC.

And Jozwiak tied it up in the 70th minute, beating Richie Laryea to knock home a Kerwin Vargas cross for his first MLS goal.

Bernardeschi had a chance to restore the TFC lead in the 83rd minute but a desperate tackle by French defender Adilson Malanda saved the day for Charlotte. At the other end, Toronto defender Matt Hedges had to make a key clearance in stoppage time.

Toronto (1-1-4) has not lost since coughing up two late goals in the season-opening 3-2 defeat at D.C. United, extending its unbeaten MLS run to five games (1-0-4).

Charlotte (1-3-2) opened the season with losses to New England (1-0), St. Louis City (3-1) and Atlanta (3-0) before rebounding to win 2-1 at Orlando and tie the visiting Red Bulls 1-1.

It was a windy, damp three degrees Celsius at kickoff Saturday, feeling like minus-three, at BMO Field. And every corner was an adventure.

The wind played a role in the first goal, which came in the sixth minute from a Bernardeschi corner that went in without being touched. The Italian's soaring delivery curled over Marks' outstretched hand into the far corner for his third goal of the season.

It's believed to be TFC's first-ever “Olimpico,” a name that originates from a goal scored by Argentina's Cesareo Onzari against reigning Olympic champion Uruguay from a corner kick in 1924

Bernardeschi is no stranger to breaking Charlotte hearts.

He scored one goal and set up another and fellow Italian Lorenzo Insigne collected a stylish assist in a 4-0 romp over then-expansion Charlotte in their MLS debut last July. Bradley scored twice that night.

That win marked the start of Toronto's best spell of the 2022 season - an eight-game league run that saw the team go 4-1-3 (including a 2-0 win in Charlotte that featured goals from both Insigne and Bernardeschi).

Insigne has not playing since hobbling off the field 34 minutes into the Feb. 25 season opener at D.C. United. But Bernardeschi remains a force on the field.

Going into Saturday's contest, Bernardeschi had been involved in 15 of TFC's 29 goals (10 goals and five assists) dating back to that July win over Charlotte. He had contributed to nine of the club's last 15 goals (six goals and three assists) going back to the Aug. 27 victory at Charlotte.

The 29-year-old Italian scored two of Toronto's six goals in the first five games this season, setting up two others.

Toronto lived dangerously at times, giving up a pair of early chances that Charlotte was unable to convert - or even put on target. At the other end, Bradley tested Marks with a long-range shot in the 28th.

Marks kept Charlotte in the game with excellent back-to-back stops in the 33rd minute from Bernardeschi and Ayo Akinola.

Both teams had injury concerns.

In addition to Insigne, veteran striker Adama Diomande (hamstring) and fullback Cristian Gutierrez (non-COVID illness) were also missing for Toronto.

Back from international duty with Canada, Laryea, midfielders Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye and Ayo Akinola made the Toronto starting 11. Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, 18, retained his spot in the team with fullback Raoul Petretta, who did not play the second half of last weekend's 0-0 draw in San Jose, starting on the bench.

Charlotte was hurting in midfield without injured captain Ashley Westwood and the suspended Brandt Bronico.

Forward Karol Swiderski, one of Charlotte's designated players, came in off the bench at the hour-mark. He scored for Poland in a 1-0 win over Albania in a Euro 2024 qualifier during the recent FIFA international window.

Announced attendance was 22,801.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2023.