Coming off a 3-0 win over Chivas USA, the first under Gregg Vanney, Toronto FC now face much stiffer competition against a side in a similarly heated playoff chase in the Portland Timbers and are unbeaten in its last four games.
TFC named a similar starting XI to the side that was put out against Chivas last weekend.
The only change coming out of necessity with Dominic Oduro replacing Jackson, the Brazilian midfielder serving the first of a two match suspension for his mini-skirmish with Nigel Reo-Coker last match that saw both players receive straight red cards.
Portland came into the game off a comprehensive 3-0 win over another Canadian side in fellow Cascadia rivals Vancouver Whitecaps.
Argentine midfield maestro Diego Valeri and Nigerian forward Fanendo Adi stealing the show, the former scoring a goal and setting up another while the latter finished the job with two goals of his own. The 23-year-old has earned himself a run into the side and has formed a good relationship with Valeri and Darlington Nagbe, forcing coach Caleb Porter into starting him over former TFC player Maximiliano Urruti.
The Opening 45
At the outset both teams were barely able to settle into proceedings before a collision between players halted play. TFC defender Mark Bloom and Timbers and Canadian midfielder Will Johnson coming together with Johnson coming off much worse, the stretcher needing to be deployed for what looked to be a serious leg injury.
Portland was able to shake off the injury to one of its leaders and get on the board first in the 13th minute through its in form goal threat, a cheap give-away from Nick Hagglund allowed Adi to go in on goal and fire past Bendik’s right side to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
They would add another three minutes later.
Stemming from a Valeri corner kick, the ball would cycle its way back to the playmaker before his shot would deflect off captain Steven Caldwell for an own goal to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead.
Grabbing the game so early after seeing a vital player like Johnson come off with a serious injury allowed Porter’s men to settle into its trademark passing and possession style, forcing the Toronto FC’s defence to stretch wide and leave open gaps.
TFC looked to get back on into the game from a Steven Caldwell header, but the Reds bad fortunes would continue as the referee’s assistant would rule offside on the play.
Much of the half saw TFC come closer to pulling one back, missing a good chance at the back post before a deflection from Timbers defender Pa Modou Kah in the 36th minute crashed off the post.
The injury to Johnson allowed for eight minutes of added time and the hosts came closes to scoring, Michael Bradley collecting a pass and firing it just over an outstretched Donovan Ricketts.
The Second Half
Coming out of the break, it was Bradley picking up where he left off setting up two chances via set play, his first ball into the box headed just outside the far post before a shot on goal moments later went beyond Ricketts near post.
Toronto FC’s work rate and testing of the Jamaican keepers goal would finally pay off in the 62nd minute, a cross from Daniel Lovitz finding the head of his fellow rookie Hagglund. The rookie our of Xavier University making up for his giveaway on the opening goal, powering the ball past Ricketts in the 62nd minute to cut the lead 2-1.
He would make full amends just a few minutes later, a Bradley cross bouncing in his path and he’d pounce on the gaping goal in the 70th minute leveling the game 2-2.
The remainder of the game was all TFC, creating a multitude of chances in an attempt to make complete the comeback.
They would do just that in the 89th minute through Bradley’s continuously dangerous display on dead balls, serving a ball with the right amount of pace and curve from around 35-yards to elude all players in the box and nestle into the far corner of the goal to give the host a 3-2 win and a well earned three points.
Man of the Match
Committing a loose pass that directly led to the opening goal, the 22-year-old made up for it in the best possible way by finding the net on two occasions. Not only is this a rare feat for a central defender, but is even more meaningful for a player that has been given big responsibility in his first season.
Michael Bradley - He has come into criticism post World Cup and has seen his role ion the field change from game to game, playing attacking midfield, holding midfield, deep-lying playmaker and even sweeper. However, this game showed his ability to create chances for himself and his teammates both during open play and on set pieces.
Toronto FC Line-up
12 Joe Bendik
28 Mark Bloom
17 Nick Hagglund
13 Steven Caldwell
2 Justin Morrow
23 Dominic Oduro
21 Jonathan Osorio
4 Michael Bradley
35 Daniel Lovitz
27 Luke Moore
Substitutions: Dwayne De Rosario for Daniel Lovitz (69); Kyle Bekker for Jonathan Osorio (75); Andrew Wiedemen for Dominic Oduro (78).