From the very first minute, Toronto FC were all over D.C. United as both teams kicked off play in Group C of the MLS is Back Tournament. But D.C. United refused to go away, despite being reduced to 10 men.
United were 2-0 down as the game entered the final 10 minutes, showing no signs of a comeback, before two goals against the run of play spoiled the day for Toronto, knotting the match 2-2.
Federico Higuain came off the bench to make his D.C. debut and wasted no time making an impact, scoring a delightful chip in the 84th minute to claw them back into the game, before Frederic Brilliant headed in the game-tying goal in the 91st minute.
In the 96th minute, goalkeeper Bill Hamid deflected away a header from Ayo Akinola, denying the 20-year-old Homegrown forward a late game-winner and a hat trick.
Akinola delivered two first-half goals for Toronto. The first strike was a fine finish from outside the 18-yard box and the second a tap-in, courtesy of an Alejandro Pozuelo assist. Pozuelo won possession in the attacking third with a high press before chipping towards the back post where Akinola was wide open for the simplest of finishes.
Already trailing 2-0, United midfielder Junior Moreno was sent off for a second yellow card in first-half stoppage time. Toronto largely controlled the second half with patient possession but they could not put D.C. away.
Akinola started in place of Jozy Altidore, who wasn't named in the matchday squad due to a coaching decision, the club said. TFC DP Pablo Piatti made his MLS debut, playing 72 minutes. Michael Bradley made his 2020 debut after recovering from ankle surgery.
- 12' – TOR – Ayo Akinola | WATCH
- 44' – TOR – Ayo Akinola | WATCH
- 84' – D.C. – Federico Higuain | WATCH
- 90+1' – D.C. – Frederic Brilliant | WATCH
Man of the Match presented by Heineken
Akinola got the goals and Bradley looked rejuvenated in his first competitive match since 2019, but Pozuelo dictated the match in an attacking sense for TFC. He got the assist on both goals.
Pozuelo's debut season in MLS couldn't have gone much better, with 12 goals and 12 assists before leading his side to a surprise run to the MLS Cup final. His first two games of 2020 were encouraging and he flashed his Best XI quality on Monday morning.
THE BIG PICTURE
: Piatti debuted. Bradley's back. Pozuelo is Pozuelo. And they still get to add Altidore to this team. For 80 minutes that was the story of the match: Toronto showed why most consider them to be among the favorites at the tournament. But in a stunning collapse, Group C remains wide open and questions will be asked of Toronto.
- TOR: Thursday, July 16 vs. Montreal Impact (8 pm ET | FSI and TUDN in US, TSN and TVAS in Canada)
- DC: Friday, July 17 vs. New England Revolution (8 pm ET | ESPN in US, TSN in Canada)