May 28th, 2024

Prince Owusu’s acrobatic second-half strike lifts Toronto FC past New England

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on April 20, 2024.

Toronto FC's Prince Osei Owusu (99) tumbles as he scores as New England Revolution's Mark-Anthony Kaye (28) looks on during second half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, April 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

TORONTO – Prince Owusu’s spectacular 66th-minute strike helped Toronto FC snap its three-game Major League Soccer losing streak with a 1-0 win over the struggling New England Revolution on Saturday.

Toronto (4-4-1) had a chance to add to the lead in the 76th minute but Federico Bernardechi’s penalty was stopped by Slovakian goalkeeper Henrich Ravas before an announced crowd of 24,108 at BMO Field.

Chances were few and far between for Toronto before that, with goalkeeper Sean Johnson up to the challenge at the other end when New England (1-6-1) threatened.

But Owusu changed the game’s direction after defender Ryan Spaulding’s attempted clearance of a Matty Longstaff cross skewed in the air and dropped to substitute Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty. He headed the ball across goal and a speeding Owusu, beating a defender, somehow backheeled it in with his back foot while airborne.

It was the fourth goal of the season for the German forward, who scored twice off the bench in last week’s 3-2 loss at Charlotte.

Marshall-Rutty earned a penalty soon after when a sliding Andrew Farrell was judged to have handled the ball as he attempted the tackle. Bernardeschi, Toronto’s designated penalty shooter, could not beat Ravas from the spot as his goalless run stretched to 18 games.

It was the fifth shutout of the season for Toronto and the third for Johnson.

Both teams were dealing with injuries and in need of a change in fortune.

After a promising start under coach John Herdman, TFC had lost three straight – while being outscored 10-3 – and won just one of its last five outings (1-4-0).

The Revs, whose attention was divided to start the season by a run to the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals, came into the game with just one league win mired in the Eastern Conference basement.

Toronto was without its talisman, with Italian star Lorenzo Insigne still nursing a hamstring injury, and fielded a makeshift defence with Kevin Long suspended and Shane O’Neill injured.

Also injured were Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania and Alonso Coello. Toronto signed 17-year-old TFC 2 midfielder Andrei Dumitru to a short-term loan agreement to make up the numbers.

Bernardeschi and defender Raoul Petretta both started after being listed as questionable.

Herdman made three changes to his starting lineup with Owusu, Tyrese Spicer and Kobe Franklin coming in for Deandre Kerr, Coello and Long.

New England was missing Brandon Bye, DeJuan Jones, Tommy McNamara, Jonathan Mensah, Peyton Miller and Dylan Borrero. Argentine winger Tomas Chancalay, one of the Revs’ designated players, started on the bench.

Porter started two 19-year-olds in Noel Buck and forward Esmir Bajraktarevic.

The game was essentially a stalemate until the 22nd minute when Toronto’s Johnson made a fine reflex save off a Henry Kessler header, only to see the offside flag go up.

Two minutes later, Ravas’ attempted clearance went straight to Bernardeschi. The Italian fed Jonathan Osorio who had only a defender to beat on the goal line with Ravas out of position. But the TFC captain’s shot deflected off another defender.

Nacho Gil had a good chance in the 39th minute off a corner but Nicksoen Gomis got a leg in front of his hard, close-range shot. Soon after Johnson stopped a long-range effort from New England captain Carles Gil, Nacho’s older brother.

Canadian international Mark-Anthony Kaye, a former Toronto player, replaced Buck in the 44th minute.

New England came on as the first half wore on, accumulating five corners before the break.

Johnson came up with a huge save in the 51st minute to deny Giacomo Vrioni after the Italian-born Albanian forward got behind the defence.

New England lost 1-0 when the teams met March 3 at Gillette Stadium. The Revs had gone 1-3-1 since in league play with the lone win coming April 6 in a 1-0 decision over visiting Charlotte.

The Revs finished sixth overall in the league last season with 55 points, 23 above 29th-place Toronto. But this season has been a struggle under new coach Caleb Porter.

New England was outscored 10-3 in losing its first four league outings, but arrived in Toronto having gone 1-1-1 in its previous three MLS games. The Revs lost 2-0 at New York City FC, their third loss in as many road games this season.

New England came into Saturday’s game having scored a league-low five goals while conceding 13 to rank 24th in the league on defence.

The Revolution held a 16-11-13 career edge over Toronto, including a 5-6-6 mark at BMO Field. New England was unbeaten in its last three trips to Toronto (2-0-1), including a 2-0 victory last May.

With the Maple Leafs opening the playoffs in Boston the same night, the TFC captain arrived at the stadium wearing a Mats Sundin Leafs jersey.

Toronto hosts League1 Ontario champion Simcoe County Rovers in Canadian Championship play Wednesday and visits Orlando City SC on Saturday. New England welcomes Inter Miami on Saturday.

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024.

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