Toronto FC rallies to tie Atlanta United as Lorenzo Insigne returns from injury
Toronto FC forward Lorenzo Insigne (24) plays the ball against Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon (11) during second half MLS Soccer action in Toronto, on Saturday, April 15, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, April 15, 2023 10:24PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, April 15, 2023 11:21PM EDT
TORONTO - Another Toronto FC game and yet another draw.
But this one felt closer to a win as Brandon Servania rescued a point for TFC with a 94th-minute strike in what was virtually the last kick of an entertaining 2-2 game on a pleasant evening before an announced crowd of 27,892 at BMO Field.
It was the first goal in TFC colours for the 24-year-old midfielder who spent the last five seasons with FC Dallas.
Coach Bob Bradley saw positives but wants more from Toronto (1-1-6).
“Getting a late goal is important because we've had chances in other games where a late goal could have gotten us three points,” he said. “There were moments where we played pretty well and had some control, but it was inconsistent. It was a roller-coaster.”
A win not shown in the standings was the return of star winger Lorenzo Insigne, who came on in the 77th minute for his first action since exiting 34 minutes into the Feb. 25 season opener with a groin injury. The 31-year-old Italian, the highest-paid player in MLS, had missed the previous six matches.
“It's good to get him back on the field, it's a start,” said Bradley, while noting he needs more time to get him back at his best.
Toronto is unbeaten in six games (1-0-5) and has lost just once this season, conceding 90th- and 98th-minute goals in a hard-to-forget 3-2 defeat at the hands of D.C. United in the opening game. But it only has one win - 2-0 over visiting Inter Miami on March 18 - which marks TFC's lone victory in 14 league games (1-6-7) dating back to last August.
Toronto has solidified its defence but the attack, with several key pieces missing, has been found wanting.
“There's parts that are better but no, we can't look at it like we're the complete team yet because we're not,” said Bradley.
Atlanta (4-1-3) is unbeaten in three games (1-0-2) since a 6-1 beating at the hands of high-scoring Columbus.
Insigne played his part in the late goal, taking a pass from centre back Lukas MacNaughton and, with one touch, sending the ball on to Jonathan Osorio. His pass found an onrushing Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty who rather than send a ball through traffic to forward Ayo Akinola, raked it back to Servania who eluded a defender before tucking the ball home.
Substitute Machop Chol had looked to give Atlanta the win with a 76th-minute goal. The South Sudan international headed home a Luiz Araujo cross as Insigne waited on the sidelines.
Insigne almost played hero in the 89th minute with a stealthy run into the Atlanta penalty box but could not get a boot to a ball from fellow Italian Federico Bernardeschi.
Canadian fullback Richie Laryea scored a highlight-reel goal for TFC. Giorgos Giakoumakis opened the scoring for Atlanta.
Both teams offered some surprises with their lineups.
Toronto captain Michael Bradley was on the bench to start, alongside Insigne. Bradley, who has made 298 appearances for the club in all competitions, had started TFC's last 42 league games - last missing out in Atlanta on Oct. 30, 2021.
Bradley was held out Saturday as a precaution after feeling something in his lower leg before the game, according to Bob Bradley, his father. The veteran midfielder had played every minute of the previous seven games this season. Osorio led the team out in his absence.
Laryea said he still heard his captain all night from the bench.
Atlanta did not dress Argentina World Cup winner Thiago Almada, who has four goals and five assists this season. It was also a precautionary move due to a leg issue.
The game saw the return of former TFC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, deputizing for captain Brad Guzan, who tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee in last Saturday's 1-1 draw at New York City FC.
The visitors had a dream start with Giakoumakis, from the near post, heading home a Brooks Lennon corner in the fourth minute. Giakoumakis beat two Toronto defenders to flick a glancing header into the far corner of the goal past a diving Sean Johnson.
Giakoumakis has scored in his first four starts for Atlanta, the first player in club history to do so. But the Greek's night ended in the 49th minute after he went down grabbing his leg.
Toronto answered with a world-class goal in the 43rd minute. Laryea, in his 100th appearance for TFC in all competitions, took a short pass from Bernardeschi, turned on the afterburners and outpaced two defenders before hammering a shot past Westberg. Jordan Peruzza made a nice run to draw away defenders and make space for his fullback.
It was the 10th goal in Toronto colours for Laryea.
Bernardeschi, meanwhile, has been involved in 17 of TFC's 32 goals (11 goals and six assists) since he and Insigne made their debut in a 4-0 win over Charlotte in July 23, 2022. The Italian was yellow-carded in the 63rd for shoving Atlanta's Caleb Wiley as they jostled for the ball for a throw-in.
Toronto appealed unsuccessfully for several penalties but got no change out of referee Ted Unkel.
Spanish midfielder Alonso Coello got his second career start for Toronto with MacNaughton filling in for Matt Hedges (concussion protocols).
Bob Bradley in search of offence in the absence of the injured Adama Diomande (hamstring), started Perruzza over Deandre Kerr and Ayo Akinola, who have both seen action up front this season. Akinola replaced Perruzza to open the second half.
Atlanta, which boasts more urban tree canopy than any other city in the U.S., wore its “deep green and cool mint” Forest kit.
Toronto visits the Philadelphia Union next Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2023.