Los Angeles Galaxy score late to secure 2-2 draw in Greg Vanney's return to Toronto

·6 min read

TORONTO — Riqui Puig opened his MLS scoring account with a rocket of a shot in the 89th minute as the Los Angeles Galaxy rallied for a 2-2 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday in former TFC coach Greg Vanney's return to BMO Field.

Federico Bernardeschi had looked to give Toronto a comeback win with his 81st-minute penalty. Former Toronto player Raheem Edwards conceded the penalty, cutting down Bernardeschi as the Italian winger sliced into the box. Bernardeschi took advantage, slotting home his sixth goal in eight league appearances for Toronto.

But Puig, a former Barcelona product making his second start for the Galaxy, hammered a shot past goalkeeper Alex Bono to secure a single point for the visitors. A Galaxy goal in the seven-minute stoppage time was ruled offside

Jesus Jimenez ended an 11-game scoring drought in the 62nd minute to bring Toronto even after Douglas Costa's 24th-minute strike for Los Angeles.

There was plenty of emotion on the night, before a crowd of 29,130, as befitting two teams fighting for playoff position.

Costa opened the scoring for L.A. with an elegant free kick, curling the ball over Toronto's four man-wall and out of the reach of a diving Bono for his third of the season. Defender Chris Mavinga had yielded the free kick, bundling over Galaxy captain Javier Hernandez.

With Victor Vazquez also standing over the ball for the free kick, Bono had to position himself more in the middle of the goal not knowing whether to watch for Costa's left foot or Vazquez's right.

Costa, who has had stints with Brazil's Gremio, Ukraine's Shakhtar Donetsk, Germany's Bayern Munich and Italy's Juventus, opened his MLS scoring account in March against Seattle with a free kick from near the same spot. The Brazilian becomes the second Galaxy player to score multiple direct free-kick goals in a single season, joining Romain Alessandrini who did it in 2017.

Toronto tied it up in the 62nd minute, one minute after a triple change by coach Bob Bradley. Captain Michael Bradley found Ifunanyachi Achara in the Galaxy penalty box and he fed fellow substitute Jimenez, who found a pocket of space among three defenders in front of the goal.

It was the Spanish striker's ninth goal of the season and his first since June 29.

Toronto (9-13-7) came into midweek play in 10th spot in the tightly congested Eastern Conference, three places and three points out of the playoffs. TFC has five games remaining in the regular season, all against East rivals starting Saturday with the visit of CF Montreal.

The Galaxy (11-11-5) held down the seventh and final playoff spot in the West, one point ahead of Portland with two games in hand.

Los Angeles had lost just one of its last five games (3-1-1) and was coming off a 2-1 victory at New England that snapped a four-game losing streak away from home. The Galaxy had not put together back-to-back away wins since June 2021.

Vanney, who became the ninth head coach in TFC history in August 2014, stepped down in December 2020 after having taken Toronto from league doormat to champion. Vanney holds franchise coaching records for games (250) and wins (112) and led the team to three MLS Cup finals, winning the title in 2017, and three Canadian Championships.

Vanney's technical staff in L.A. is replete with former TFC staffers in Dan Calichman, Nick Theslof, Jason Bent, Mike Munoz. Jim Liston, Michael Rabasca and Tom Williams, not to mention former Toronto players Vazquez, Mark Delgado, Raheem Edwards and Eriq Zavaleta.

Toronto fell on hard times in the wake of Vanney's exit with Bob Bradley, the third TFC coach since Vanney's departure, wielding an axe to the roster.

After a rough start to the season, Toronto came into Wednesday's game having lost just one of seven outings (4-1-2) since the arrival of Italian stars Lorenzo Insigne and Bernardeschi.

Insigne and Bernardeschi had both scored in three of those games and, along with fellow Italian Domenico Criscito, had been involved in TFC's previous 13 goals including scoring the last seven prior to Wednesday.

Insigne set up Bernardeschi for a goal in the 56th minute Wednesday but the play was ruled offside.

Toronto had recorded three shutouts during its previous seven games after failing to keep a clean sheet in its 27 previous league matches (5-15-7).

It was an attractive opening to the game with both teams showing quality in possession. But while Toronto was missing the injured Jonathan Osorio and Mark-Anthony Kaye in midfield, Los Angeles boasted former Barcelona products Puig and Vazquez.

Puig showed his vision, spraying passes across the pitch. Then he showed his finishing touch.

Toronto had a glorious chance in the eighth minute but Bernardeschi's header off a fine Insigne cross was off-target. Criscito started the play with a well-timed challenge setting up a rush by Jayden Nelson.

A minute later Toronto's Kosi Thompson shot wide.

Costa was on target in the 11th but the shot was right at Bono. Five minutes later, Ayo Akinola hammered a shot just over the Galaxy crossbar.

Toronto managed eight shots in the first half but none on target.

Tenoera flared early in the second half when the ball went into touch and Toronto defender Lukas MacNaughton booted it back into play, catching Vazquez in the stomach. Referee Ted Unkel reviewed the play on the pitchside monitor but stuck with his initial yellow card for MacNaughton.

Insigne showed his skills in the 66th minute with an acrobatic bicycle kick that went wide off a corner.

Bradley and Richie Laryea mixed it up with Hernandez in a heated tussle in the Toronto penalty box in the 74th minute.

Toronto was also without injured forward Deandre Kerr. Mavinga made his 150th appearance in all competitions for the club.

Los Angeles was missing Delgado (heath and safety protocols).

History was on Toronto's side Wednesday with TFC having lost just one of eight home matches (3-1-4) against the Galaxy. Los Angeles' last point in Toronto came in a 2-2 draw in March 2013.

The lone Galaxy victory at BMO Field was a 2-1 decision in June 2009. Still, L.A. held a 7-5-6 edge in the overall series prior to Wednesday's matchup.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 31, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press