D.C. United and Toronto FC have produced late drama time and again in recent years, and they did it again tonight in a 2-2 draw at Audi Field. Toronto came from 1-0 down thanks to goals from Alejandro Pozuelo and Ayo Akinola, but United homegrown winger Griffin Yow’s first MLS goal in the 88th minute gave the Black-and-Red a point.
United had gone nearly a full calendar year without scoring a first half goal, but wasted no time in this one. It couldn’t have been easier: Ola Kamara caught Omar Gonzalez in possession, stripping the veteran center back of the ball about 40 yards out, racing in alone on Quentin Westberg, and calmly stroking a low shot past him from 18 yards.
The goal ended a streak of 14 straight competitive games without a first half goal for United, dating back to a Lucas Rodriguez goal against Seattle back on September 22, 2019.
United nearly made it 2-0 just six minutes later, with Asad cracking a shot off the crossbar after Eriq Zavaleta — in the TFC lineup over normal starter Chris Mavinga — meekly headed a cross his way. Asad’s shot bounced down off the bar, but didn’t cross the line, and the Reds cleared the danger from there.
The Black-and-Red’s bright start came to a sudden end, however, as Toronto equalized in the 17th minute. After a confident two-minute spell of possession for the visitors, right back Richie Laryea curled a cross in behind United’s defense. Donovan Pines went for an acrobatic block, but could only guide the ball to the feet of Alejandro Pozuelo, who immediately side-footed it home from 7 yards.
Undeterred, United repeatedly got into dangerous spots behind the TFC defense, with Kamara and Gelmin Rivas both causing problems. For their part, Toronto looked to hold possession for long stretches, though in truth it did not amount to many chances. For the first time in ages, United went to the locker room holding an edge on first half shot attempts (10, to TFC’s 8).
Toronto, having brought Ayo Akinola in for Jozy Altidore at halftime, began pushing more numbers upfield earlier in build-ups to try and open the game up for themselves. Pines came up with a big defensive play in the 55th minute, sealing off any angle to goal for Pozuelo after a Rivas giveaway had become a TFC counter-attack.
Akinola scored twice against United at the MLS is Back Tournament, and he struck again at the hour mark to give TFC a 2-1 lead. A moment of passive defending from United saw Pozuelo able to play across the top of the box for Richie Laryea, whose cross ran long. Pablo Piatti kept the play alive, though, collecting the ball on the endline before picking out Akinola unmarked from six yards, where the young striker guided his header back across goal and in.
United were applying more pressure after falling behind, but the danger they created before halftime was harder to come by as the minutes ticked away. Olsen, who had brought in Griffin Yow at the half for the injured Mohammed Abu, turned to Federico Higuain and homegrown duo Kevin Paredes and Moses Nyeman in an attempt to boost his team’s hopes.
United were pressing, but not actually creating a lot, but one of their youngsters arrived to save the day in the 88th minute. A cross from the left was headed on by Gonzalez, but with Westberg coming to punch it, TFC were left with an unmanned goal as the ball skimmed off Gonzalez and towards the back post. Yow, unmarked as the defense converged on the initial service, fired a volley into the empty net, setting off celebrations as the 17 year old notched his first MLS goal.
Sensing the moment, United continued looking for a goal, and nearly got it in the 94th minute. A diagonal ball from the left wing found Yow at the back post, and this time Yow looked for United’s final sub, Erik Sorga. The Estonian beat Chris Mavinga to the low cross, but there was no stoppage time winner this time for the 20-year-old striker, as Westberg manage to tip his shot over the bar.
While United were able to walk off with a positive thanks to the late equalizer, the draw left them one point out of the playoff places (11 points, 2W-5D-5L). They’ll look to build some momentum this coming Wednesday, when they go on the road to face Nashville SC for the first time ever.
MLS Regular Season - Game 12
D.C. United 2 (Kamara 5, Yow 88)
Toronto FC 2 (Pozuelo 17, Akinola 60)
DCU (442): Bill Hamid; Chris Odoi-Atsem (Erik Sorga 87), Frederic Brillant (C), Donovan Pines, Joseph Mora; Julian Gressel (Moses Nyeman 78), Junior Moreno, Mohammed Abu (Griffin Yow 46), Yamil Asad (Federico Higuain 78); Gelmin Rivas (Kevin Paredes 68), Ola Kamara
TFC (4231): Quentin Westberg; Richie Laryea, Eriq Zavaleta (Chris Mavinga 75), Omar Gonzalez, Justin Morrow; Marky Delgado, Jonathan Osorio (C); Pablo Piatti (Tsubasa Endoh 89), Alejandro Pozuelo (Patrick Mullins 89), Nick DeLeon (Laurent Ciman 82); Jozy Altidore (Ayo Akinola 46)
DCU - Paredes 81
TFC - DeLeon 25, Piatti 42, Laryea 67