A month of turmoil and player upheaval was briefly set aside as Toronto scored deep in stoppage time to down Canadian rival Vancouver, 3-2, in a spectacular match at BMO Field.
On the same day Toronto FC announced it had parted ways with one of its players arrested last month, another of those players helped propel it to an amazing victory.
Luis Silva scored TFC’s first goal in a see-saw battle against Vancouver at BMO Field that went deep into stoppage time before Terry Dunfield headed home Torsten Frings corner kick to give TFC a dramatic 3-2 victory.Silva also set up a first-half chance for Ryan Johnson with a great ball over the top and went the full 90-plus minutes in a game that featured all five goals in the second half, including the last two in stoppage time.
Along with Miguel Aceval and Nick Soolsma, Silva was arrested in the early morning hours of June 17 for failing disperse after police officers responded to reports of an altercation outside of Club Escobar in Houston. All three players were arrested for public intoxication after ignoring the officers’ instructions to leave.
The incident occurred a week and half after Paul Mariner replaced Aron Winter as head coach in early June. The fate of all three players was at the time left up in the air, and now their future paths are taking shape: Silva has apparently returned to good standing, Aceval was on the bench against Vancouver though he didn’t play, and earlier Wednesday the team announced Soolsma’s contract had been terminated by mutual consent.
Soolsma, 24, joined TFC last year and after he impressed initially, his stock dropped. He scored three goals and recorded seven assists in 32 games. This season, he’d started only three of his nine appearances and registered two assists. Soolsma shared a Dutch heritage with Winter and now he’s followed him out the door.
He isn’t the only attacking player to leave after an encouraging debut season in MLS. Joao Plata’s exciting dribbles and daring runs thrilled the BMO faithful last year, but his lack of playing time prompted public statements that he wanted to return to Ecuador. Wednesday came confirmation that he is being loaned to LDU Quito for the next six months, with an addendum that he could return to TFC next season.
As a 19-year old during his rookie season in 2011, Plata scored three goals and added five assists in league play, and also contributed important goals in TFC’s surprising run in the Concacaf Champions League. Like Soolsma, MLS 2012 didn’t follow suit; he scored zero goals in 10 appearances.
TFC under Mariner is still a troubled team, yet it fought adversity throughout the match against Vancouver. In a scoreless first half in which TFC seldom held the upper hand,Johnson squandered a pair of breakaways, hitting keeper –- and former San Jose teammate – Joe Cannon with one shot and banging the other off the goalpost.
Silva steered in a centering pass from left back Ashtone Morgan, who signed a long-term contract a few days ago, to tie the game, 1-1, and Frings rocketed home a shot three minutes later to make it 2-1. But TFC couldn’t handle Vancouver rookie forward Darren Maddocks, whose second goal in stoppage time deflated a buoyant BMO crowd that had been primed to celebrate just the team’s third victory after a disappointing 3-0 loss to Philadelphia last weekend.
That set the stage for the heroics of Dunfield, a Vancouver native who came home in 2010 after playing a decade in England to play in the second division. The 'Caps traded him to TFC just about a year ago and he marked the occasion a few days early by heading a Frings corner kick with just seconds left in stoppage time.
The victory was just the second in eight games for TFC under Mariner but it has also managed four ties. TFC lost nine straight under Winter to open the season. The Dutchman did get one victory before being dismissed, so if nothing else, at least under Mariner TFC is harder to beat.
Whether the players had quit under Winter or were just too poorly prepared doesn’t matter much now. They’ve rediscovered the will to win.