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Toronto FC defeats D.C. United 5-1, advances to conference semifinals
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, October 19, 2019 8:48PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, October 19, 2019 9:12PM EDT
TORONTO - Jonathan Osorio scored twice and Richie Laryea and Nick DeLeon added two more in a four-goal extra-time outburst as Toronto FC, dodging a bullet after conceding a stoppage-time equalizer, posted a wild 5-1 playoff victory Saturday that ended D.C. United's season and Wayne Rooney's MLS career.
The goals came in the first half of the 30-minute extra time - the 93rd, 95th, 103rd and 105th minute - turning the game on its head.
Laryea beat D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid from close range three minutes into extra time after Michael Bradley stole the ball and fed DeLeon, who slipped the ball to Laryea. Two minutes later Drew Moor headed an Alejandro Pozuelo corner into the goalfront where Osorio banged it in amidst a scrum of bodies.
Pozuelo then spotted Osorio steaming towards goal and the Canadian midfielder hammered a volley from just inside the penalty box. DeLeon, a former D.C. United player, made it 5-1 with a swerving shot from distance after a Pozuelo corner.
Toronto had chances to add to its total in the second half of extra time. D.C. United, meanwhile, lost Paul Arriola to a second yellow card in the 118th minute.
Toronto had seemed destined for victory thanks to Marky Delgado's 32nd-minute goal. But that all changed in the 93rd minute when Argentine midfielder Lucas Rodriguez swept in a Rooney corner after Frederic Brillant nudged the ball over to the far post.
The goal silenced the announced crowd of 25,331 at BMO Field.
The corner came after Toronto 'keeper Quentin Westberg was caught out of position attempting to clear the ball. He did not find safety and a D.C. player chipped the ball at goal, forcing centre back Chris Mavinga to head the ball out for the corner.
Toronto was missing the services of two key players - striker Jozy Altidore and centre back Omar Gonzalez - for its return to the playoffs after a one-year absence following its 2017 championship run. Both were injured.
But Pozuelo, pushed up front in Altidore's absence, gave the home side the creativity in attack it needed for the go-ahead goal. The visitors came to life in the second half but were unable to breach the Toronto defence until the death.
Credit Westberg for that. He made several key saves, including a wonderful stop on Ola Kamara in the 77th minute when the Norwegian was gifted a scoring chance on an awful Nicolas Benezet backpass.
Toronto went ahead in the 32nd minute when Hamid spilled a dipping Pozuelo shot from outside the penalty box. The rebound went to Delgado, who beat Steven Birnbaum to the ball to tuck it in.
The goal ended D.C. United's 536-minute shutout streak dating back to a 3-1 loss Aug. 24 in Philadelphia. Hamid had posted five straight clean sheets since.
Toronto moves on to New York to face NYFC on Wednesday. Rooney, meanwhile, said goodbye to MLS with the loss, exiting after the first half of extra time. The 33-year-old, who managed 23 goals and 15 assists in 48 regular-season games for D.C. United, is returning to England to join Derby County.
Rooney had two excellent scoring chances midway through the second half but was stopped both times by Westberg.
The D.C. attack was toothless in the first half, however. Without a shot on target, the visitors brought on Kamara in the 44th minute, with Rooney dropping back.
D.C. finally put a shot on target in the 62nd minute when Westberg easily handled Rooney's shot from distance. Westberg had to make a more difficult one-handed save two minutes later off Rooney and soon after made a reflex save to stop Rooney from close-in
Altidore had been a Toronto question-mark since leaving the Oct. 6 regular-season finale with a quad injury. The more surprising omission was Gonzalez, sidelined by a hamstring strain. The tall defender, who has become the glue of the TFC defence, started the previous 12 matches with TFC losing just once (5-1-6).
Laurent Ciman, who had played just 117 minutes in Toronto's last 12 league games, came in for Gonzalez. Pozuelo was pushed farther forward in Altidore's absence, flanked by Benezet and Tsubasa Endoh.
It was a cagey opening with neither team able to string much together. Pozuelo's shot in the 13th minute handcuffed Hamid initially but the D.C. 'keeper retrieved the rebound safely.
Toronto began to exert some pressure and a Justin Morrow cross found Pozuelo in the box in the 23rd minute. He laid it off for Benezet, whose shot deflected wide off a body.
After Toronto went ahead, Morrow made a key header to deny Paul Arriola a shot at goal.
Hamid's handling issues continued in the second half as he made heavy work of an Endoh shot in the 54th minute. Benezet then found Delgado alone in the box with a perfect pass but Delgado was unable to get the shot off.
A diving Hamid stopped Endoh in the 60th minute.
The two teams arrived with identical 13-10-11 records with Toronto grabbing fourth place in the East and a home playoff game on goal difference. It took a TFC win over Columbus, D.C. United tie with FC Cincinnati and Red Bulls loss in Montreal on Decision Day to sort out the fourth-, fifth and sixth-place teams in the East.
Toronto and D.C. split their regular-season meetings in 2019. They played to a goalless draw May 15 at BMO Field, despite Toronto registering 36 total attempts toward goal. On June 29 at Audi Field, a Rooney stoppage-time penalty cancelled out a Nick DeLeon goal in a 1-1 tie.
Toronto ended the regular season on a 10-game undefeated string (4-0-6), one shy of the club record set in 2017. Toronto's last loss was Aug. 3 when it was beaten 2-0 at the New York Red Bulls.
TFC came into Saturday's game having lost just two of its last 15 outings (7-2-6) since the end of the Gold Cup in early July.
D.C. United went undefeated in its final five regular season matches (3-0-2).
Wednesday's Eastern Conference semifinal will be played at Citi Field, home of the Mets, due to the Yankees' playoff run.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 19, 2019.