Toronto FC picked up another hard-fought point on Saturday night, drawing 2-2 with Atlanta United at BMO Field.
Giorgos Giakoumakis gave the visitors the lead after four minutes, getting on the end of a Brooks Lennon corner kick to guide a looping header into the TFC goal. Richie Laryea, making his 100th appearance for Toronto, equalized just before half-time with a driving run in field before rippling the net with a right-footed blast from the top of the box.
Atlanta would retake the lead in the 76th minute from Machop Chol’s header off a Luis Araújo cross with Lorenzo Insigne on the touchlines waiting to enter, but Toronto refused to accept defeat.
In the dying embers, the Reds would find the equalizer in dramatic fashion. Insigne started the move off to the left, combining with Jonathan Osorio just in-field. The captain sent a lovely weighted ball forward for Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, who cut back an inviting ball to the top of the box where Brandon Servania did the rest.
“Getting the late goal is important,” said Bob Bradley post-match. “We've had chances in other games where a late goal could have gotten us three.”
“There were moments where we played pretty well, had some control, but it was inconsistent. It was a roller coaster. In the second half, we lost some control. There was a level of frustration,” he outlined. “But to put all that aside and make a play at the end is something important for us.”
It was the first time this season Toronto had come back from a losing position to salvage a result.
“To go down twice and come back into the game, play some good football, have some really good moments. The two goals, we could go back and clean them up, but it shows a lot,” said Laryea. “That could have been a loss.”
“The mentality as a group is very good right now. It’s important to be able to get points out of these games,” he continued. “It’s a step in a better direction.”
POSTGAME SOUND | Richie Laryea - April 15, 2023
Laryea was asked about his milestone.
“Nice to make 100 appearances, more so for your hometown club,” he smiled. “Would have been better to get the three points, but nonetheless, a cool milestone.”
And to get a goal on the night, his ninth in MLS, was an exclamation point, combining with Servania and Federico Bernardeschi up the right.
“Brandon and Fede did a really good job. Brandon played it inside to Fede and Fede played me a perfect ball into the middle,” Laryea recounted. “I actually was wanting to get the ball across to Oso, but that closed and so I thought let me take this and see where it goes.”
From the moment it left his foot there was little doubt.
“When Richie gets space going forward, he can cause trouble,” said Bradley. “What I liked in that moment is he saw the space and when they backed up a little bit he took advantage and took a shot, he didn't try to keep going through everybody.”
POSTGAME SOUND | Bob Bradley - April 15, 2023
“He's tricky as a dribbler and he's got a way of getting people on the wrong foot, so there's times that he tries to go by the next guy,” he continued. “But he took his chance and finished it really well.”
A big moment on a big night for a big player.
“That's probably right up there,” replied Laryea, asked where it ranked in his career. “My 100th game, in my hometown, and to be able to bring the team back into the game and spark a belief within the stadium, within the group, was special.”
There was something in the air at BMO Field. Faint, but recognizable.
Maybe it was that Lorenzo Insigne was back in the matchday squad, maybe it was clashing with Atlanta a second time. Even when TFC went down 2-1, one got the sense that they were not going to lose that game. They may run out of time in the end, but they would go down swinging.
As the 90th minute passed and extra time ticked down the string was drawn tight.
“We're down, so we're trying to push the game, trying to get at least a point out of it,” said Servania, describing his late equalizer. “I saw the ball going wide to Jahk [Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty], just tried to make the run and give him the option.”
POSTGAME SOUND | Brandon Servania - April 15, 2023
“The ball came to me, I, thankfully, took a good touch and put it away. Felt good to finally score for the club,” he continued. “We’ve been working hard. Obviously wish it was with the win, but glad that we fought hard to the end and at least secured a point.”
Said Bradley: “Brandon is growing.”
“He started really well, in a couple games he maybe dipped a little bit, but tonight he found good spots. We see in training that he is someone that, when he gets around the box, can finish,” he added. “He took it really well.”
A lot of big goals have been scored in front of the fans at the South End of BMO Field. A lot of important celebrations have been done with them.
Servania brought his own flavour to the party.
“I did the bow and arrow celebration in Dallas a few times,” he explained. “It’s something that me and my brother do – I have a little brother playing for North Carolina FC. Whenever we score, we tend to do that. It felt good to finally be able to do that here in Toronto.”
Michael Bradley missed the match, though he was on the bench dispensing the same communications as always.
“I just hear it from the bench side though,” said Laryea. ““Even though he wasn't out there, he was still helping us get through the game.”
His absence was precautionary.
“He's had a little bit of lower leg things that just added up,” said Bob Bradley. “We don't want to let it get away from us.”
Toronto, now unbeaten in seven matches, hit the road next weekend with a tricky away fixture against the Philadelphia Union. Six of those last seven have ended in draws.
“It's not ideal. A whole bunch of ties aren’t going to get us into the playoffs,” levelled Servania. “It's just a matter of continuing to fight as a team. We've done well, we’re working hard, Lorenzo coming back is going to help. Just build on this and keep going.”
That is the work of a season.
“We say it every game, we have to take certain advantages and do better,” reminded Bradley. “There's no special way to make that better. It's just work, week in and week out, seeing which players can get sharper.”
“That's going to be important for us,” he continued. “There's a lot of things that are going on in a better direction, but we've got to find ways that we can take some of the football that we play and turn them into more chances and more goals.”
Added Laryea: “It's early in the season. We'll get sharper, we'll get better. We'll just keep going.”