Plata blows a kiss to the TFC crowd upon his 90th minute substitution.

Toronto Trumps Houston

TORONTO — Two second-half goals sparked Toronto FC to their first league win in more than a month, beating Houston, 2-1, in front of 20,259 fans at BMO Field on Saturday.

The story of the game was Reds striker Joao Plata, who scored on a penalty, appeared to draw a second call in the box and assisted Maicon Santos for the game’s winning goal.

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Although Plata was the most visible TFC player on the night, it was forward Nick Soolsma's quickness that drew the penalty that Plata converted. After scooping up an errant clearance attempt, Soolsma cut inside before being pulled down by Houston's Andre Hainault.

Plata put the penalty straight and high, tucking in just below the crossbar to score his first MLS goal.

Plata appeared to create a second penalty after dashing into the box in the 60th minute. In alone against Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall, Plata went to ground after it looked as though Hall had brought him down. Though referee Jorge Gonzalez pointed to the spot, assistant referee Adam Wienckowski had raised the flag for offside and the PK call was reversed.

In the end it wouldn’t matter, however, as the Reds seemingly used the set-back as motivation to close out the game. Santos duly doubled the score after collecting a pass from Plata. On a full sprint, the diminutive forward fed a streaking Santos, who fired it low and hard past Hall.

A late goal by Houston made for a nervous stoppage-time for the home side after Lovel Palmer managed to salvage some pride for Houston in the 88th minute when he beat Stefan Frei low and to the left. However, it proved to be too little too late.

For the first 10 minutes, the Reds enjoyed all kinds of space down the wings and again it was Plata causing the difficulty.

However, Toronto could not capitalize on the earlier momentum. The closest chance early on came in the 11th minute when Julian de Guzman sent a 35-yard screamer toward goal that was just tipped over by Houston's Hall.

Jacob Peterson was front-and-center in the 36th minute when he sent a free header sailing over the bar. Palmer had the Dynamo’s only real chance of the first half, but he sent his 30-yard effort just wide.

After TFC dropped back into a more defensive stance, Houston saw much more of the ball over the game’s final 20 minutes. However, the Reds back line held firm.

Toronto - Stefan Frei; Mikael Yourassowsky, Adrian Cann, Dicoy Williams, Richard Eckersley; Julian de Guzman, Tony Tchani, Jacob Peterson (Matt Gold 76'); Joao Plata (Dan Gargan 90'), Alan Stevanovic (Maicon Santos 75'), Nick Soolsma ... Substitutes not used: Milos Kocic, Danleigh Borman, Ty Harden, Nathan Sturgis

Houston - Tally Hall; Andre Hainault, Eddie Robinson, Bobby Boswell (Colin Clark 75'), Hunter Freeman (Corey Ashe 75'); Brad Davis, Lovel Palmer, Geoff Cameron, Je-Vaughn Watson; Cam Weaver (Will Bruin 62'), Koke ... Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Mike Chabala, Kofi Sarkodie, Jason Garey

Goals: Toronto - Plata 50' PK, Maicon 81' ... Houston - Palmer 87'

Caution: Toronto - Williams 42' Eckersley 88' ... Houston - None.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this story credited Jacob Peterson with earning the first penalty and hitting the long range drive in the first half.