By MIKE DONOVAN
Down two goals after just 16 minutes, Toronto FC looked ready to see their playoff hopes fade even further on a perfect Saturday afternoon, but a dramatic second-half rally has TFC feeling confident once again that the club’s first playoff berth can become a reality.
A second-half brace for rookie Nick Hagglund helped erase the two-goal deficit before a late Michael Bradley free kick helped give TFC a dramatic 3-2 victory at BMO Field over the Portland Timbers. Fanendo Adi scored for the Timbers and Steven Caldwell put one into his own net, but it was not enough for Portland.
In addition to the loss, the Timbers (9-9-12, 39 points) also lost captain Will Johnson to a serious-looking leg injury just ten seconds into the match that Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said after the match could be a broken leg.
Bradley’s winner means that Toronto (11-11-7, 40 points) finished the match in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, catapulting Philadelphia and Columbus with the victory. The U.S. International sent a long free kick into the box, where it took one bounce and went past Donovan Ricketts for the goal.
Two second-half headers from MLS rookie Nick Hagglund brought the Canadian side back into the match. The first came when Daniel Lovitz served a left-footed cross into the box where it met Hagglund, who rose above Portland’s Darlington Nagbe, for a thumping header.
Just seven minutes after his first career MLS goal, Hagglund was at it again. A Bradley free kick took a slight deflection from Gilberto before finding an unmarked Hagglund at the far post.
Toronto FC needed the second-half turnaround after a disastrous start to the match that saw them concede twice in the first 16 minutes.
Fanendo Adi notched his ninth goal of the season after future second-half hero Hagglund turned the ball over in his own half when Diego Chara blocked the rookie’s pass. The ball fell to an onrushing Adi, who fired the ball past Joe Bendik.
Three minutes after Adi’s goal, the Timbers doubled the lead when Steven Caldwell deflected a Diego Valeri pass into his own net. Caldwell’s backheel own goal came after Valeri was left unmarked next to the penalty area.
Portland almost added a third at the beginning of the second half, but Rodney Wallace was not able to put a shot on target after Bendik left his goalmouth to mark a streaking Jorge Villafana. Villafana found Wallace, but the Costa Rican International put his shot wide.
Moments after the opening whistle, Toronto FC’s Mark Bloom and Johnson collided after both players slid for the ball. Johnson immediately motioned to the sideline and was eventually stretchered off with his right leg in a full air cast. After the match, Timbers head coach Caleb Porter said he believed Johnson had suffered a broken leg.
Toronto will travel west for their next match to take on the LA Galaxy. The Timbers, who hold the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot for the moment, will again be on the road as a road trip to face the San Jose Earthquakes awaits.
Here are the match highlights: