After 128 days and two postponed kickoffs to start this MLS Is Back tournament, Toronto FC finally returned to the pitch on Monday morning with a 2-2 draw against DC United.
Jozy Altidore wasn’t match fit, after joining the team late in Toronto following a quarantine period, so Ayo Akinola made his first MLS start in over a year, and only the third league start of his career, but it was a good one.
New Designated Player Pablo Piatti also made his Toronto FC debut on Monday, starting and playing around 73 minutes.
Akinola took advantage of his opportunity, giving Toronto FC an early lead. He received a pass at the edge of the penalty area, turned and found himself just enough space to turn again and fire a rocket into the top left corner.
Moments before halftime, Akinola doubled his tally. After a remarkable effort by Alejandro Pozuelo to get to the ball, he chipped a pass across the face of the goal and Akinola tapped it in to make it 2-0.
They were his second and third MLS goals, and doubled his Toronto FC career tally up to four.
Quentin Westberg kept his clean sheet intact at the end of the half, making a sensational save to deny Ola Kamara. As he does so often, his quick reaction denied what looked like a sure goal.
To rub salt in DC United’s wound, midfielder Júnior Moreno was sent off with moments left in the half after a poor challenge on Marky Delgado. It was his second yellow card, although he probably should have been sent off earlier in the half for a string of yellow card worthy challenges.
Toronto dominated the first half, controlling possession and not allowing DC many chances to get near their goal, and took a commanding 2-0 lead into halftime. It was the best half from any team at the MLS Is Back tournament thus far.
Toronto FC slowed down the pace at the start of the second half, passing the ball around and just keeping the ball away from DC United.
DC United pulled one back in the 84th minute, thanks to someone who has always had Toronto FC’s number, Federico Higuain. After years of terrorizing The Reds with the Columbus Crew, Higuain is with DC this season, and was back to his old tricks. Higuain found the back of the net with a sensational chipped shot over Quentin Westberg to cut TFC’s lead in half.
When it seemed like Toronto FC were going to close out a well-deserved victory, DC United tied it up in stoppage time. Stoppage time goals have been common in this MLS Is Back tournament, and Frédéric Brillant was the latest to score one, heading the ball home following a set piece.
It was a disappointing end to what was a fantastic return to action for Toronto FC.
Things boiled over after the final whistle with Michael Bradley and Bill Hamid among the players in a scrap that saw both benches spill onto the pitch. It was unclear what started it, but frustration and emotion seemed to get the best of some people.
The Reds will be looking toward a date with the Montreal Impact for redemption. Originally scheduled for Wednesday night, the match will now be played on Thursday, at 8 p.m. EST.