It seemed like a typical Toronto FC letdown in a crucial game, until all of a sudden it wasn’t. Michael Bradley had his finest moment in a TFC uniform as his late free kick found the back of the net to complete a massive comeback for the team. The win puts Toronto into the thick of the MLS Eastern Conference playoff race once again. It also improves their record to 11-11-7 on the season.
After a horrendous first 15 minutes, Nick Hagglund played hero as he scored twice to bring Toronto level. All three Toronto goals came off set pieces, which seems to be a big trend as of late. Daniel Lovitz also played a role in both Hagglund goals, assisting the first and drawing the foul that led to the second. Fanendo Adi and a Steven Caldwell own goal constituted Portland’s goals.
A full analysis of the match will be up shortly. Until then enjoy Hagglund’s magic:
POR- Adi (Chara) 13’
POR- Caldwell (OG) 16’
TFC- Hagglund (Lovitz) 62’
TFC- Hagglund (Gilberto, Bradley) 70’
TFC- Bradley 89’
POR- Chara (Caution) 45’+7
POR- Valeri (Caution) 88'
TFC- Moore (Caution) 90'
Toronto FC: 10-11-7 (37 pts)
Portland Timbers: 6-6-2 (20 pts)
Toronto FC: Bendik, Morrow, Bloom, Caldwell, Hagglund, Oduro (Wiedeman 78’), Osorio (Bekker 75’), Bradley, Lovitz (De Rosario 69’), Moore, Gilberto
Unused Subs: Konopka, Morgan, Henry, Creavalle
Portland Timbers: Ricketts, Powell, Ridgewell, Villafana, Kah, Johnson (Zemanski 7’), Chara, Wallace (Fernandez 81’), Valeri, Nagbe, Adi (Urruti 72’)
Unused Subs: Weber, Paparatto, Harrington, Jewsbury
GREG VANNEY – HEAD COACH, TORONTO FC
What are your thoughts on the comeback?
It felt great, the guys were committed, and I felt like once we got out of that first period where we gave up the couple goals we needed to be more aggressive. I felt we followed through with being aggressive and even in the first half we were able to create come chances and create some dangerous moments.
At half time, the discussion was to be aggressive and believe you can do it. I told them to keep moving forward, keep looking forward and continue to put their back line under pressure and things will happen for us.
All of the credit goes to guys for all the amount of work they put in together collectively and to make it happen was fantastic. It was the kind of stuff you can really build on and make a serious push towards the end of the year.
I do want to say one thing which is to send my best to Will Johnson as I did not get to see him before he left the field as he was heading in the other direction. I do want to send my best to him and that he has a speedy recovery. I always thought he was a classy guy and a hard working guy and I send my best to him.
What do you think has changed for this team to show that kind of mental strength to battle back and win this game?
I think I’ve said since the start of taking over if you have a pretty defined plan and some clarity as to what guys need to be doing on the field then our team will be at its best. Sitting back and waiting is not our strength as our strength is to get the ball forward and get the ball into our attacking players. We want to be able to give our forwards and our wide guys chances to score goals and when we do we can put a lot of teams under a lot of pressure and then we become very difficult to handle.
This is about clarifying our identity a little bit from that security so we can understand who we are and what we’re about and then we can start to build confidence and get results. We could’ve, should’ve, would’ve had the result against Chicago, then we got the result vs. Chivas and then we have a remarkable comeback today.
I looked into the guys eyes after the game and they are very much believing in what they have to accomplish this season.
What did you think of the 2 goals you conceded in the first half?
I found them to be very soft and lackadaisical. I think in terms of experience we need to realize that those types of incidents (Will Johnson injury) happen we don’t try to play it out of the back but we play forward a bit more and get the ball in their half and see if they will make a mistake but we found ourselves under lots of pressure. The second was another set piece goal which I do not know all of the details about but it is about committed to their defending responsibilities and clearing the ball and seeing plays out.
What was the mood like in the change room after being down 2-0 at halftime at home?
There was a little bit of frustration in there to be down 2-0 going into the half. I think they believed that we were getting chances and I did not need to convince anybody of anything. I think the group definitely believes in what they are doing but it was a little bit quiet. For me, it was about getting the guys to believe in each other and take small bites.
What can you say about Nick Haaglund after being at fault for one of the goals and then outcompeting everyone in the box for two goals?
I saw him at the combine in Las Vegas even before the MLS combine and he was a kid with a personality and a sort of happy-go-lucky sort of attitude. We saw him against at the MLS combine and he has this energy and presence that is not really phased by many things. Sure, he made the mistake early on but he bounced back and he can dig down and it doesn’t change the confidence in what he does. He is a young man who is growing throughout the the year. He has a great leader in Stephen (Caldwell) who has been his mentor in the last couple games
NICK HAGGLUND – DEFENDER, TORONTO FC
Anything that was discussed in particular at half-time?
We knew that Portland was great offensively as a group. They have a lot of pieces that were good but we knew that defensively they had struggled this year and we knew that we were always going to be in the game no matter what. Our first half wasn’t good. We weren’t connecting passes and we knew that if we came together and played the way TFC knows how to play and play tough and be hard, we eventually would score some goals.
Can you go through the roller coaster of emotions you went through from one half to the other.
My first half was bad. Simply from my first pass was a give away to them scoring a goal. I knew that I had to dig the team back out. I made a mistake and it was my job to make up for it. I was going to do everything in my power to make that happen.
MARK BLOOM – DEFENDER, TORONTO FC
Just start off with the incident right at the start?
It’s just a situation where he took a bad touch that got away from him and at the beginning of the game you want to set the tone, so we both went in for the tackle. I think we both went in clean. No one when in dirty and it’s just unfortunate that someone had to come out like that.
Did you know immediately that he was hurt?
No, I just knew that I was hurt. Then I looked and it looked like he was worse off than me. For me it’s just a matter of getting up and walking it off. But unfortunately for him it was more intense.
MICHAEL BRADLEY – MIDFIELDER, TORONTO FC
Your thoughts on the injury to Will Johnson?
As a player and as a competitor you hate to see anybody get hurt. But that’s one of your closest friends it’s not nice at all. They both went in very hard. On the one hand you expect that they would both pop right up and on the other hand that play had a hard edge going to it. You could even hear the way they crashed into each other and you kind of knew that that was a hard one.
Your obviously professionals, but it must be hard going back into things after seeing that?
It’s not easy in a lot of ways. You figure we warmed up we had come back in the locker room, you go out national anthems, take pictures, the works and then 25 or 30 seconds in and then another ten minutes before the game started back up. That doesn't even take into account the psychological part of it, in their case seeing a teammate go down like that. When there is a play like that it takes a little while for the game to kind of get going.
CALEB PORTER – HEAD COACH, PORTLAND TIMBERS
Looked like you had a chance for a really big win, and things got away from you in the second half?
It is disappointing, you are up 2-0 with a great opportunity to take three points and we had a good first half. We knew the next goal was going to be key, we should have scored the third goal with a point blank chance and if we scored that the game would have been over. Through the run of play I didn’t think they had a ton of chances, but we gave up three set piece goals. You can understand one happening, but three, three is very hard to swallow. It was a great example of how we have to finish games, scoring the third goal, at least stopping them from getting to their third set piece goals. You have to credit Toronto as well, they are really hungry right now, never made the playoffs and we knew they were going to come out flying. They took their three chances well and we needed to do better, as winning soccer games can come down to set pieces as I have said before. These are things that we will learn from and correct.
Did you have a decent view of the Will Johnson tackle?
I didn’t get a great view, not sure if I’ll watch it again. It was a tackle, two guys went in and he got the wrong end of it. It was unfortunate and tough but I was really pleased with the way the guys responded, sometimes you lose your captain and it sends your group into a funk but I thought we responded really well.
What did you mean by managing the game better?
You’re up 2-0 you have to find a way to get a result, and you have to manage the game better. We weren’t going for the third goal recklessly, we were very organized, tight, and didn’t think we gave up many chances through the run of play. For me it is about managing the moments that will get you the result, and those set pieces were crucial moments on both sides of the ball. Also scoring that third goal to go up 3-0 then the whole thing is different.
DONOVAN RICKETTS – GOALKEEPER, PORTLAND TIMBERS
How tough was it to have a 2-0 lead and let it get away from you in the second half?
It is disappointing, in a game when you are up 2-0 you should be seeing the game out and unfortunately in the game we gave away goals on set pieces and it cost us.
Looking at the reaction of the team after Will (Johnson) went down, talk about the team from a mental standpoint, where some teams could have just went south after losing their captain to such a bad injury?
We wanted to get off to a good start in the game regardless, but when Will went down it seemed to lift the team and we went up and got two goals. We sat back on the two goals which was our mistake and let them back in the game.
Is it tough to see the team concede three set piece goals, when you seemed to have control of their chances during the run of play?
It’s tough to give up set piece goals, one…..sometimes it is acceptable but three is unacceptable! That is somethin we definitely have to work on movin forward if we want to make the playoffs.
PA MODOU KAH – DEFENDER, PORTLAND TIMBERS
What are the feelings like after going up 2-0 and letting it get away from you in the second half?
It is very disappointing as we did have some chances to finish the game off, but you know that is the entertainment of soccer when you don’t take your chances. In the second half they did take their chances and they won the game.
They say 2-0 is a difficult lead to hold, how big is it for your team to have gotten that third goal and put away one of those chances?
If we had scored a third goal the game would have been different of course, but you can never be sure. Even at 3-0 the game can still be difficult but the chances are less you losing. At 2-0 they scored and are right back in the game, they took their momentum with that and that is why they have three points and we don’t. Plain and simple it is a game where you have to take your chances, they took theirs. If you don’t take yours, eventually the other team is going to get some and that is what happened.
FANENDO ADI – FORWARD, PORTLAND TIMBERS
You got off to a great start as a team, seemed to be in control of the game, what happened in the second half?
We underrated the opponent in the second half, we didn’t give them the respect that they deserved and this is what happens in soccer when you do that. They took the chances when they came, you can see they didn’t create many chances on us it was just crossing and the goals not many combinations. But you have to give it to them, the best team wins and that was them tonight.
Very good finish to start the game, then a very unfortunate miss to go up 3-0, what happened during that sequence?
The ball took a deflection on the way through, so it was actually difficult to get a clean foot on it. The ball was passing me, I seen it coming but if someone touches the ball before me it is difficult to get a good shot off.