TORONTO – Forward Robert Earnshaw scored an early brace and Toronto FC were able to hang on for a 2-1 win in their home opener against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
Earnshaw capitalized on an errant back pass by MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler to score after three minutes and the Welshman also buried a penalty kick to give Toronto an early 2-0 lead. Although Sporting KC Designated Player Claudio Bieler pulled one back late, Toronto sealed their first win in 15 league matches dating back to the 2012 season and the first in the tenure of new manager Ryan Nelsen.
The result handed Sporting KC their first regular-season loss in 13 matches, also dating back to 2012, and left them one match short of tying their all-time club record of 14 straight undefeated.
For the second straight week, Sporting fell behind early as Besler's pass to fellow SKC defender Aurélien Collin was intercepted by Earnshaw in the third minute. The forward picked off the pass and clinically finished past helpless SKC 'keeper Jimmy Nielsen for the early 1-0 lead.
Sporting’s rough afternoon continued when some impressive footwork by newly acquired Toronto midfielder John Bostock led to SKC midfielder Paulo Nagamura tripping up the Englishman in the box in the 21st minute. Earnshaw stepped up and used a cool stutter step to catch Nielsen wrong footed from the penalty spot to put TFC up 2-0.
In effort to kick-start his offense, Sporting manager Peter Vermes brought on forward C.J. Sapong to start the second half. That move almost paid immediate dividends as the visitors piled on the pressure and dominated possession through much of the second half, with Sapong redirecting a corner kick off the crossbar via a header in the 61st minute.
Despite Kansas City's possession advantage, Toronto continued to impress defensively while being lead by strong performances from defenders Darren O’Dea, Danny Califf and Richard Eckersley.
Sporting finally pulled one goal back in the 77th minute when Sapong flicked a long free kick from Nielsen to Bieler, who split the TFC defense and blasted the ball past Toronto keeper Joe Bendik for his second goal in as many games.
Toronto ultimately held steadfast under constant and fantastic pressure from Sporting through the remainder of regulation and five minutes of injury time.
Sporting Kansas City are next in action on March 16 as they face off against Chicago for their home opener. Toronto travel to Montreal that same day to take on their Canadian rivals at Olympic Stadium.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Robert Earnshaw (TOR)||The hard-working Welshman was ruthless with his first and clinical on his second, sealing a memorable brace on his home debut.|
|2||John Bostock (TOR)||Toronto's best attacks came when Bostock had the ball at his feet wide right: Creativity, flair and vision that earned him a standing ovation when he was subbed off.|
|3||Darren O'Dea (TOR)||The captain was the anchor of an organized Toronto back line, leading by example with numerous clearances, step-ups and timely challenges.|