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Sporting Kansas City scores three times in second half to beat Toronto FC



TORONTO — Goalkeeper Luka Gavran kept Toronto in the game for close to an hour before goals by Remi Walter, Jake Davis and Alenis Vargas lifted Sporting Kansas City to a 3-1 win over Toronto FC in Major League Soccer play on Saturday.

Jonathan Osorio scored a consolation goal for Toronto in the 97th minute, knocking home a Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty cross.

It was an entertaining first half with no goals but some big saves at both ends. Gavran, continuing to deputize for injured starter Sean Johnson, was busy in the Toronto goal.

It took a spectacular strike by Remi Walter in the 57th minute to finally beat him. A Kevin Long headed clearance went straight to Walter outside the penalty box and the former French youth international, in his 100th regular-season appearance, beat a diving Gavran with a dipping left-footed shot to the corner.

There was a virtual replay in the 64th minute with another long-range goal from Davis, his first in MLS, as Toronto defenders failed to close him down. 

Unlike last week, when Kansas City (2-1-3) blew a 2-0 lead and conceded three goals in eight minutes in a 3-2 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy, Peter Vermes’ team held on to the lead to improve to 2-1-3.

Vargas added an insurance goal in the 83rd minute, cruising past defender Shane O’Neill and beating Gavran to open his MLS account five minutes after coming into the game.

Toronto (3-2-1) came into the contest in high gear despite getting news earlier in the week that Italian star Lorenzo Insigne will be sidelined for six weeks with a hamstring injury.

Toronto had conceded a league-best two goals with four shutouts in its first five games, a far cry from the Eastern Conference-worst 59 last season. But its defence was shredded in the second half Saturday. And its offence, with six goals in six games, lacks teeth.

Through the vagaries of the MLS schedule, the game was the first between the two teams since June 7, 2019 — some 1,758 days ago.

Coach John Herdman made two changes to his starting lineup with Osorio and forward Prince Owusu slotting in for Insigne and Deandre Kerr.

Both teams had chances in the opening 10 minutes with Gavran and Kansas City’s Tim Melia making good saves on Daniel Salloi and Federico Bernardeschi, respectively. Toronto centre back Sigurd Rosted also contributed an important clearance to deny another scoring chance on the rebound from the Salloi save.

A diving header by Toronto rookie Tyrese Spicer flashed across the goal in the 20th minute. And Spicer set up Owusu in the 32nd minute with a well-placed low ball but the German forward could not poke it home.

Gavran made a spectacular diving save to stop Willy Agada’s header off a corner in the 37th minute. A minute later, an Osorio goal from close range was ruled offside.

At the other end, Agada hit the goalpost in the 41st minute. Gavran came up big again in the 44th minute, coming out to stop Tim Leibold after a Toronto set play went awry.

While Toronto had 61.7 per cent of the possession in the first half, Kansas City had an 8-6 edge in shots (6-1 n shots on target).

Bernardeschi appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty early in the second half after some contact as he drove into the penalty box.

Kansas City is 12-1-5 in its last 18 regular-season meetings with Toronto, with the lone loss coming March 9, 2013, at the Rogers Centre. And it is unbeaten in nine games (5-0-4) at BMO Field since a 1-0 defeat April 26, 2009.

In addition to Insigne and Johnson, Toronto was without defenders Nicksoen Gomis (wrist), Richie Laryea (thigh) and Raoul Petretta (thigh) and midfielder Brandon Servania (knee).

Kansas City was also missing some top talent in injured defenders Logan Ndenbe and Andreu Fontas and forwards Alan Pulido, Johnny Russell and Khiry Shelton. Canadian defender Zorhan Bassong and forward Stephen Afrifa were on the visitors’ bench with Afrifa coming on in second-half stoppage time.

Saturday marked game No. 7 at the Toronto helm for Herdman and No. 565 for Vermes, in his 16th season in charge of Kansas City.

Bernardeschi made his 50th regular-season appearance for Toronto while O’Neill marked TFC game No. 50 across all competitions.

For Kansas City, Erik Thommy marked his 300th professional club appearance.

There was action before the gates opened Saturday. Social media footage showed a fox wandering in the stands and a couple celebrated their wedding vows in the south stand in front of friends.

Announced attendance was 24,382.

Toronto plays its next two games on the road, next Saturday at Vancouver and April 13 at Charlotte FC. Both outings will be on artificial turf.

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