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Despite dramatic comeback, TFC still disappointed by draw

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Peri Marosevic

When a team comes back, on the road, from a two-goal deficit, you’d think that you’d file this into the “draw that felt like a win” category.

But, for Toronto FC, who got a late goals from Peri Marosevic — making his TFC debut — and Danny Koevermans to draw Portland 2-2 at JELD-WEN Field, that wasn’t the case.

TFC has just 10 games left on the season, and are eight points out of a playoff spot. And, on a weekend when mid-table Eastern Conference teams like Houston and D.C United (ahem, two goals from Dwayne De Rosario on Saturday) are winning, one point isn’t good enough.

“When you come back and make it 2-2, it’s very good but honestly you have to win the game because we’ve lost two points,” TFC head coach Aron Winter said after the match. “The first half we didn’t start sharp. After 20 minutes when they’ve scored a goal then we can wake up but the big difference is after 25 minutes we started playing the way we want. After 2-0, the team reacted very well.”

Portland took the lead after 20 minutes, but could have been up even earlier. In the ninth minute, TFC youngster Ashtone Morgan, getting a rare start, was caught flat-footed by pass from Timbers midfielder Lovel Palmer, recently acquired from Houston. The pass sprung Eddie Johnson, who wasn’t challenged as he came in from the left channel.

But TFC keeper Stefan Frei got low and was able to get enough on the shot to deflect it off the woodwork.

Frei had to come up huge again in the early going, after Timber Kalif Alhassan muscled his way past TFC right back Richard Eckersley and was able to get a clear sight on goal. Frei came out to challenge the shot and made the save.

But, after Joao Plata struck the post, the Timbers turned the ball towards the TFC goal and scored in the 20th. It was a comedy of errors from the TFC back line. First, centre back Andy Iro came out far too high to try and challenge midfielder Sal Zizzo for the ball. Zizzo fooled Iro with a simple stutter step and was able to free Diego Chara with a pass. Worse, TFC players dropped their pace as they looked for an offside flag. Morgan was late in moving with his line and looked to have played Johnson onside, who took the pass from Chara and slammed a great shot home from just outside the box.

In the second half, Iro continued to wear goat horns. He was called for tripping Chara near the perimeter of the penalty area, in a spot where Chara wasn’t going to do any damage. Jack Jewsbury ripped the ensuing penalty kick up the middle to up the lead to 2-0.

Timbers’ defender Eric Brunner could have salted away the three points in the 63rd minute. He came up for a corner, but his header hit the post.

Winter brought Marosevic, acquired earlier this week after he was cut by FC Dallas, and Terry Dunfield, also making his debut, in as second-half subs.

And Marosevic did something for TFC that he couldn’t do for FC Dallas in two and a half seasons; score an MLS goal. He pounced on a poor clearing attempt from the Portland backline, and hit a bouncing ball sweetly. It went low and into the corner, giving Timbers’ keeper Troy Perkins no chance to stop it.

“Words can’t really describe that,” said Marosevic, who was taken in the first round of the 2009 SuperDraft. “First of all, I’ve got to thank Toronto FC for giving me that opportunity, having that trust in me and taking that chance. Obviously coming here to Portland it’s a tough environment and we knew we were going to face a good side. But we grouped ourselves together well and this team has great character and it showed – we worked hard for each other and we never gave up and it showed in the second half.”

The comeback was made complete when Plata — who was TFC’s most dangerous player — made a fantastic pass for Koevermans to slot home. Plata corraled a bouncing ball at the top of the area. But, to gain control, he had to run with the ball away from goal. He turned and slotted a low ball into the area that had eyes for Koevermans.

Palmer just missed a chance to win the game for Portland with a late, speculative drive.

But, at this stage of the season, the draws don’t feel like wins. They feel like losses, no matter how dramatic the comeback.

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