By DAN KARELL
Against the odds with a weakened side and reduced to 10 men, Toronto FC showed terrific mental strength and desire to produce a positive performance on the road.
Playing a rare Friday night match at Sporting Park, TFC came back from a goal down on two occasions to draw Sporting Kansas City, 2-2. It was a great evening for English MLS fans, with all four goals being scored by Englishman; two scored by Sporting KC’s forward Dom Dwyer, and one each by TFC forward Luke Moore and midfielder/defender Bradley Orr.
Sporting KC paid the price for the tough hand they’ve been dealt, with a lineup decimated by injury and international absences. The hosts were without Matt Besler and Lawrence Olum due to international duty and Erik Palmer-Brown (suspension), Ike Opara, and Aurelien Collin (both injured), forcing Sporting KC to play right backs Chance Myers and Kevin Ellis as their central pair.
The duo fared well early on as Sporting KC held possession and TFC sat back in two organized banks of four. However, Sporting were hit again by the injury bug in the 36th minute when Myers went off with what was later diagnosed as a left Achilles tendon injury. He’ll undergo an MRI in the coming days.
Two minutes after the halftime break, Dwyer stepped up when his team was in need of a confidence boost.
After spraying a ball out wide, Dwyer made a run to the far post before changing direction on a dime and cutting towards the ball. A pass delivered inside the box by Sal Zizzo was fired into the far post by Dwyer, arriving at the ball just before TFC defender Steven Caldwell to give Sporting KC the lead.
In the 63rd minute, Caldwell looked to end his team’s hopes for the evening when he went into a 50/50 challenge with a raised boot on Sporting KC midfielder Toni Dovale, earning Caldwell a straight red card. However, four minutes later, TFC substitute Moore leveled the score.
Taking advantage of turnover in midfield, Jermain Defoe ran at the makeshift Sporting KC defense, drawing three defenders towards him before playing Moore into space, where he finished just inside the post.
Sporting KC took the game to the shorthanded visitors, but TFC proved very difficult to break down. The hosts however were given more good fortune when Igor Juliao was controversially awarded a penalty, after colliding with the bigger and stronger Doneil Henry in the box in the 84th minute.
Dwyer stepped up and cooly finished his tenth goal of the season, giving Sporting KC another huge boost on their way to what looked like a difficult victory.
Once again though, TFC never gave up, and would get their rewards in the first minute of second half stoppage time. Off a poorly cleared header from a free kick, TFC defender Nick Hagglund sent a ball back into the box, and Orr was the quickest to react, sending a looping header over Sporting KC goalkeeper Eric Kronberg to tie the match once more.
The draw took TFC up to sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings while Sporting KC remain in second place.
Here are the game highlights: