Toronto FC stages second-half rally to defeat FC Cincinnati 3-2 and exit MLS basement

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TORONTO — Canadian winger Jacob Shaffelburg scored one goal and set up two more as Toronto FC rallied in the second half defeat Cincinnati 3-2 in MLS play Wednesday.

Ifunanyachi Achara and Mark Delgado also scored for Toronto, whose three goals came in a 17-minute span, with Yeferson Soteldo picking up two assists.

The game, played in front of a sparse crowd of 5,110 at BMO Field, featured the two bottom teams in the Eastern Conference, with Cincinnati arriving with a one-point advantage over Toronto. The win lifted TFC out of the MLS basement and above Cincinnati.

Toronto (5-15-7) extended its unbeaten run to four games (3-0-1) in all competitions, winning for the first time in 18 MLS matches (1-14-3) this season after conceding the first goal.

Cincinnati (4-14-8) went ahead against the run of play in the 38th minute when captain Luciano Acosta found Ronald Matarrita, who had shed Toronto's Achara, racing into the penalty box. The Costa Rican fullback beat Alex Bono with a powerful left-footed shot.

Toronto answered in the 48th minute on a counterattack when Soteldo put Shaffelburg in behind the defence and the young Canadian winger hammered a right-footed shot through Przemysław Tyton's legs. It was the third goal of the season for the 21-year-old from Port Williams, N.S., who has been one of TFC's bright lights recently.

Defender Omar Gonzalez started the play, keeping the ball from going out of play by his own goal.

Shaffelburg played provider in the 55th minute, sending in a cross for Delgado to knock in at the far post for his second of the season. It was a well-worked goal.

It was more of the same in the 65th on another rapid-fire counter attack, this time with Shaffelburg's cross finding an unmarked Achara in front of goal for his second of the season.

Acosta pulled one back for Cincinnati in the 72nd minute, beating Bono from the edge of the penalty box after Toronto failed to clear the ball. It was the sixth of the season for the diminutive Argentine, who was playing in his 150th career MLS regular-season game.

Cincinnati is under new management with former TFC defender Tyrone Marshall serving as interim coach after Jaap Stam was fired Monday.

A third-year team that finished last in the standings its first two years, Cincinnati has won just two of its last 18 league outings (2-9-7). Both of those wins came over TFC (2-0 on June 26 in Orlando and 2-0 Sept. 11 in Cincinnati).

Cincinnati has now lost four straight and been outscored 13-5 since its last win over Toronto.

Toronto's strike force was depleted on the night with Ayo Akinola, Jozy Altidore, Dom Dwyer and Jordan Perruzza were all out injured while Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo missed his sixth straight game with a lower body injury.

Midfielders Ralph Priso and Tsubasa Endoh and centre backs Chris Mavinga and Eriq Zavaleta were also out injured.

Toronto was coming off a weekend 0-0 draw in Colorado, having previously blanked York United FC 4-0 in Canadian Championship play and edged Nashville SC 2-1, both at home. The Sept. 18 win over Nashville snapped a six-game league losing streak and a nine-game winless run (0-7-2) that dated back to Aug. 1.

Wednesday's game was Toronto's sixth in all competitions since Sept. 11. TFC hosts Chicago on Sunday before the international break, with its next game Oct. 16 against visiting Atlanta.

Toronto coach Javier Perez made four changes to the team that tied Colorado with Michael Bradley (back from suspension), Gonzalez, Shaffelburg and Achara coming in.

Kemar Lawrence partnered Gonzalez at centre back. Bono made his 100th MLS regular-season start.

Toronto's lack of finishing was on full display in the first half.

Delgado fired a shot just above the Cincinnati crossbar in the eighth minute. Achara then slammed a shot that ended up in the side netting in the 11th.

Jonathan Osorio missed a glorious chance in the 13th minute after Bradley found Gonzalez racing into the Cincinnati penalty box. Gonzalez' low first-time ball found Osorio at the far post but the TFC midfielder mis-hit the ball and it skied high.

Achara missed an open header in the 36th minute.

Soteldo came close to make it 3-1 in the 57th but Tyton made the close-range save. Cincinnati's Ecuador defender Gustavo Vallecilla hammered Soteldo to the ground in the 59th, earning a yellow card from Canadian referee Silviu Petrescu and an angry shove from Achara.

Cincinnati was without suspended Ghana forward Isaac Atanga while Maikel van der Werff and Joseph-Claude Gyau were injured.

Marshall, who played 362 MLS regular-season and playoff games for five teams from 1998 to 2012, had been in charge of Cincinnati’s under-19 and under-23 teams.

He joined Toronto in June 2007 in a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy, playing 16 games for TFC in 2007 and 24 in 2008 before being traded to Seattle in February 2009. He joined the Cincinnati academy coaching staff in February 2021 from Real Salt Lake, where he had been an assistant coach.

The cap on attendance at BMO Field has been raised to 21,000, from the previous 15,000 by local health authorities. But the weeknight crowd was modest.

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Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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