Newly acquired forward Andrew Wiedeman’s first MLS goal lifted Toronto FC to a 2-1 victory over the slumping Colorado Rapids on Wednesday night.
Fullback Doneil Henry helped make the go-ahead goal in the 68th minute. Beating a defender in the corner, he sent the ball towards the box and, after rookie Luis Silva swept it towards goal, Wiedeman poked it in.
The 22-year-old, in just his 10th career MLS game, was making his second appearance as a substitute since coming over to Toronto last Friday in the deal that sent Julian de Guzman to FC Dallas.
Conor Casey scored in the 23rd minute for Colorado (7-12-1). Jamaican international Ryan Johnson, making up for a flubbed penalty in the third minute, replied for Toronto (5-11-4) in the 51st.
Toronto had the early edge but let the Rapids back in to the game. Colorado’s wobbly defence eventually buckled, however, and the home side made the Rapids pay.
Coming in on the back of victories over New England and Vancouver, Toronto FC is now riding its first three-game win streak since April 2008 — its second season.
Colorado, meanwhile, dropped its fourth in a row. It also marked the fourth time this season it has lost after opening the scoring, second only to Montreal (five).
The Rapids have lost all six games with Toronto at BMO Field, although it defeated FC Dallas in Toronto to win the 2010 MLS Cup.
The Toronto win, before 18,225, continued TFC’s revival under head coach Paul Mariner despite a brutal schedule. Toronto’s record under Mariner is 4-2-4 — after a 1-9 start under former manager Aron Winter — despite playing those 10 games in 32 days, with six of those contests on the road.
Wednesday’s game was the seventh for Colorado (1-6 with all the losses by one goal) over the same time period.
The contest was the first for Toronto since leading scorer Danny Koevermans tore knee ligaments in Saturday’s 1-0 win in New England. The designated player is not expected to be back until next May.
Mariner moved Silva up front with Johnson. Eric Avila returned to the lineup in midfield.
Koevermans leaves big (blue) boots to fill. According to Opta, which tracks statistics, Toronto scored every 65.9 minutes this season with the big Dutchman on the field, prior to Wednesday. Without him, they scored every 130.8 minutes. He had nine of the team’s 19 MLS goals ahead of the Colorado contest.
It did not take long to miss Koevermans’ finishing touch.
Johnson hit the outside of the post on a third-minute penalty after Silva was clumsily hauled down as he collected a Henry through ball and danced past goalie Matt Pickens with former TFC defender Marvel Wynne trying to catch up on the play.
Johnson was also wide on a header in the sixth minute after captain Torsten Frings undressed former Montreal Impact defender Tyson Wahl at the byline and fired in an accurate cross.
It was a nightmare start for Colorado, which was repeatedly carved open at the back. But Toronto could not take advantage and gradually the Rapids regained some semblance of equilibrium.
The Rapids had their first chance in the 18th minute when Brian Mullan hammered a long-range right-footed rocket off the post.
Five minutes later, Casey put the visitors ahead after some nice give-and-go off a Rapids throw-in. Hunter Freeman floated in a cross and the powerful Casey outmuscled Henry before sending a looping header past Milos Kocic. It was the 50th MLS career goal for Casey, who appeared in two games for Toronto in 2007 before moving to Colorado.
The visitors were ahead but still looked rocky in their own end. It was an adventure in defending as Toronto repeatedly got behind the Colorado backline, with a desperate tackle from behind often saving the day.
Johnson headed the ball directly at Pickens in the 37th minute.
Kocic kept Toronto in the game with a foot save off Wells Thompson in the 50th minute.
A minute later Johnson pulled Toronto even after Silva found him with a short pass following some woeful Colorado defending. Johnson calmly angled the ball past Pickens for his fourth goal of the season.
Frings had several chances in the second half, but was stopped by a sliding defender on one occasion and just missed getting a foot on a through ball on the other.
TFC’s current lack of depth was illustrated by Wednesday’s bench, which featured four teenagers: goalie Quillan Roberts (17), midfielders Oscar Cordon and Matt Stinson (both 19) and forward Keith Makubuya (19). The ‘greybeards’ on the bench were 21-year-old defender Aaron Maund, the 22-year-old Wiedeman and 25-year-old defender Dicoy Williams.
Toronto next league match is July 28 against visiting Houston. Next up is a friendly Saturday against England’s Liverpool at Rogers Centre.