By JUSTIN FERGUSON
While Landon Donovan made his long-awaited return to action as a 61st minute substitute against Toronto, two other second-half substitutions stole the show at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon.
Jose Villarreal’s acrobatic equalizer in stoppage time erased a late go-ahead goal from Toronto rookie Jonathan Osorio as the Los Angeles Galaxy and Toronto FC played out a thrilling 2-2 contest.
Osorio, making his third appearance off the bench for his new club, knocked in a low cross from fellow substitute Luis Silva in the 78th minute to give Toronto a 2-1 lead. Silva received a backheel flick from TFC forward Robert Earnshaw before slicing a hopeful effort around LA’s Omar Gonzalez and into the path of a charging Osorio.
The Galaxy pressed for the game-tying goal in the final 15 minutes, but Toronto’s defense cleared any danger from Joe Bendik’s net.
It appeared that Toronto was going to earn three points from the defending champions until defender Darel Russell headed a long-distance cross from Gonzalez right back into the middle of the box. Villarreal, who was subbed on in the 70th minute, placed a beautiful scissor-kick past Bednik with just seconds left in the match.
Toronto would get one more chance to find a last-gasp winner, but a short corner kick was cleared by the Galaxy to seal the tie.
It was a dramatic finish for the Galaxy squad, which got on the board first in 16th minute. Mike Magee scored his fifth goal in four league matches for Los Angeles, tapping in a Marcelo Sarvas mishit at the back post.
Despite the absence of offensive leader Robbie Keane, Los Angeles controlled the early proceedings on Saturday. But a mistake from defender Leonardo and goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini shifted the momentum in Toronto’s favor right at the half-hour mark.
Leonardo attempted a pass back to Cudicini, but the ball was severely mishit by the Brazilian. Cudicini charged off his line and out of the box to try to collect the bad pass. Toronto’s Earnshaw then beat Cudicini to the ball and laced a long-range shot into the open net for the equalizer.
The Galaxy struggled to generate offensive chances after the giveaway goal. Donovan was introduced just after the hour mark in hopes of sparking the offense, and his first touch of the 2013 season was Los Angeles’s first scoring chance of the second half. The Galaxy captain knifed through the Toronto defense to get onto the end of a Magee through ball, but his shot was easily saved by Joe Bednik.
Toronto would take the lead less than 20 minutes later on the Osorio redirection, his first goal as a professional. The home side was well on its way to a famous home win, but Russell’s errant header allowed Villarreal to equalize on an acrobatic kick.
The Galaxy, which improved to 2-0-2 on the season, returns to The Home Depot Center for Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League semifinal match against Monterrey. Toronto, now 1-2-1, hosts FC Dallas next Saturday.
Here are the match highlights: