Toronto FC pays for missed scoring opportunities, loses 2-1 to Nashville SC

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Sam Surridge scored his second goal of the night in the 90th minute to complete Nashville’s 2-1 comeback win over Toronto FC in Major League Soccer play Wednesday.

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Tyler Boyd set up the goal, slicing through the Toronto defence before sending in a cross for Surridge, in close, to knock home with a nifty backheel for his seventh of the season.

Toronto (7-9-3) had gifted Chicago goals with a variety of gaffes in a 4-1 loss Saturday, prompting coach John Herdman to demand that “the real us” show up Wednesday.

This time TFC paid for failing to finish before an announced crowd of 23,361 at a steamy BMO Field. And Nashville (5-5-8) took advantage, rallying in the second half for the win.

Alonso Coello, with his first MLS goal, scored for Toronto.

It was 31C at kickoff, feeling like 41C. Nashville wore black, nevertheless.

Federico Bernardeschi, returning from suspension, and fellow Italian Lorenzo Insigne pulled the strings for Toronto, which turned up the heat as the first half wore on. TFC led 1-0 at the break and could have been ahead by five after outshooting Nashville 13-4 (4-0 in shots on target).

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Toronto had a glorious chance to go ahead in the 31st minute but Bernardeschi slipped as he took a penalty, sending the ball over the crossbar. The Italian won the penalty kick, dragged down by defender Brian Anunga who grabbed a handful of Bernardeschi’s jersey.

The penalty came seconds after Prince Owusu hit the Nashville goalpost with a header off an Insigne cross.

It was Bernardeschi’s third penalty miss of the season, although he scored on the rebound when his penalty was saved against FC Dallas. He converted his first seven penalties in all competitions for TFC.

Toronto opened the scoring in the 34th minute with Bernardeschi doing the hard work, beating a defender and keeping the ball in play before sending a cross over. An Owusu dummy run left an unmarked Coello to knock the ball home.

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It was sweet redemption for the 24-year-old Spaniard, who had a rough night Saturday in Toronto FC’s 4-1 loss to visiting Chicago.

Insigne had a couple of scoring chances in the first half but missed the target as did Owusu from close range.

Insigne came off in the 62nd minute as he works his way back from injury and family time for the birth of his child.

Three minutes later, Nashville scored on its first shot on target, with 2022 MVP Hany Mukhtar, allowed too much space, rounding Deybi Flores before finding Surridge, who opened his hips and curled a low shot past goalkeeper Luka Gavran.

Flores and Mukhtar were cautioned in the 71st minute after tangling in the tackle. Minutes later Gavran had to be sharp to stop a Walker Zimmerman header off a free kick.

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Toronto is now winless in its last five league outings (0-3-2) and has won just one of its last eight (1-5-2).

TFC went into mid-week play in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, two places and four points ahead of Nashville.

Nashville has lost just one of its last six games (2-1-3) since a 2-0 win over Toronto on May 15 at Geodis Park. But while the Nashville defence has been tight — it posted shutouts in three of its previous four outings and conceded the fewest goals (five) in MLS since May 1 — it came into Wednesday’s contest with just 20 goals in 17 games.

Bernardeschi and defender Nicksoen Gomis returned from suspension Wednesday.

Their availability accounted for two of the three changes to Herdman’s starting lineup. Owusu, restricted to 27 minutes off the bench Saturday as he returned from a calf injury, was also back as a starter.

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Wednesday’s game was on familiar ground for Nashville interim head coach Rumba Munthali. Born in Zambia, the 45-year-old Munthali was raised in Brampton, Ont., and played for the Toronto Lynx.

Both teams were missing players for Wednesday’s game, which celebrated Indigenous heritage.

Toronto captain/midfielder Jonathan Osorio and fullback/wingback Richie Laryea (Canada) and goalkeeper Sean Johnson (U.S.) are at Copa America. Wingback Tyrese Spicer, who missed the Chicago game with a back issue, remains out while defender Shane O’Neill and midfielder Brandon Servania are long-term injury absentees.

Toronto signed 19-year-old TFC II midfielder Charlie Staniland to an MLS short-term agreement for the game.

Nashville winger Jacob Shaffelburg, a former TFC player, is also with Canada while midfielder Anibal Godoy is with Panama and defender Shaq Moore with the U.S. Canadian defender Lukas MacNaughton, another former TFC player, was out with an ankle injury.

Toronto visits the New York Red Bulls on Saturday while Nashville hosts New York City FC.

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