TORONTO – Forward Robert Earnshaw scored an early brace and Toronto FC were able to hang on for a 2-1 win in their home opener against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
Earnshaw capitalized on an errant back pass by MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler to score after three minutes and the Welshman buried a penalty kick to give Toronto an early 2-0 lead. Although Sporting KC designated player Claudio Bieler pulled one back late, Toronto sealed their first win in 15 league matches dating back to the 2012 season and the first in Ryan Nelsen's tenure.
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The result handed Sporting KC their first loss in 13 regular season matches, also dating back to 2012, and left them one match short of tying their all-time club record of 14 straight undefeated.
For the second straight week Sporting fell behind early as Besler's pass to fellow SKC defender Aurelien Collin was intercepted by Earnshaw in the third minute, picking off the pass and clinically putting the ball past helpless SKC keeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Kansas City’s rough afternoon continued when some impressive footwork by newly acquired Toronto midfielder John Bostock led to Sporting defender Seth Sinovic pulling the Englishman down in the box. Earnshaw then stepped up and used a cool stutter step to catch Nielsen wrong footed on the penalty shot to put TFC up 2-0.
In effort to kick start his offense, Sporting manager Peter Vermes brought on forward C.J. Sapong to start the second half. That move almost paid immediate dividends as the visitors piled on the pressure and dominated possession through much of the second half, with Sapong redirecting a corner kick off the cross bar via a header in the 61st minute.
Despite Kansas City's possession advantage, Toronto continued to impress defensively while being lead by strong performances from defenders Darren O’Dea, Danny Califf and Richard Eckersley.
Kansas City finally pulled one goal back in the 77th minute when Sapong flicked a long kick from Nielsen to Bieler, who split the TFC defense and blasted the ball past Toronto keeper Joe Bendik for his second goal in as many games.
Toronto ultimately held steadfast under constant and fantastic pressure from Sporting through the remainder of regulation and five minutes of injury time.
Toronto FC are next in action on Saturday as they travel to Montreal to take on their Canadian rivals at Olympic Stadium.
TFC – Robert Earnshaw 3’
TFC – Robert Earnshaw 21’ (Penalty)
SKC – Claudio Bieler 77’
SKC – Paulo Nagamura 24’ (caution)
SKC – Aurelien Collin 39’ (caution)
SKC – Seth Sinovic 75’ (caution)
TFC – Danny Califf 77’ (caution)
SKC – Benny Feilhaber 78’ (caution)
TFC – Richard Eckersley 86’ (caution)
TFC – Darren O’Dea 95’ (caution)
Toronto FC – Joe Bendik; Richard Eckersley, Danny Califf, Darren O’Dea ©, Ashtone Morgan; John Bostock (Darel Russell 85’), Jeremy Hall, Terry Dunfield (Jonathan Osorio 82’), Reggie Lambe; Hogan Ephraim (Kyle Bekker 87’), Robert Earnshaw
Substitutes not used: Stefan Frei, Gale Agbossoumonde, Andrew Wiedeman, Emery Welshman
Sporting KC – Jimmy Nielsen ©; Seth Sinovic, Aurelien Collin, Matt Besler, Chance Myers; Paulo Nagamura, Oriol Rosell, Benny Feilhaber (Soony Saad 82’), Bobby Convey (C.J. Sapong 46’), Graham Zusi; Claudio Bieler
Substitutes not used: Eric Kronberg, Ike Opara, Lawrence Olum, Peterson Joseph, Josh Gardner