TORONTO â€” Leave it to Sebastian Giovinco to sum up Toronto FC’s 2-1 victory Wednesday over Orlando City.
“Three points, I score. So it’s good,” the Italian striker, who has dispensed with an interpreter this season, said with a grin.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney could also smile. But his teeth were likely clenched at times in a game of two distinct halves.
Ultimately Giovinco’s two first-half goals â€” and a remarkable second-half save from goalkeeper Alex Bono â€” were enough to secure Toronto’s third straight win.
Orlando (6-2-0) arrived with the best record in Major League Soccer on the back of a four-game win streak but offered little in the first half until Kaka’s goal just before the break turned the momentum.
Vanney’s halftime message was simple.
“We’ve made this game a lot harder in the last 30 seconds,” he told the team.
Revitalized, the visitors came out strong in the second. Suddenly Toronto (4-1-4) was on the backfoot before a BMO Field crowd of 25,200.
Bono prevented a tying goal in the 59th minute, somehow diving to claw the ball back before it crossed the goal-line after Canadian Cyle Larin got a foot to a Carlos Rivas cross. Larin, who came into the game tied for second in league scoring with six goals, looked certain to get to the ball first to tap it over but was a tad slow and Bono beat him to it.
The ‘keeper said he knew the ball was behind him because it had hit the inside of his arm.
“So you turn around and you hope that you’re quick enough to get there, you hope that you’re close enough to the line to just reach a hand out. And luckily I was.”
Larin then misfired in the 67th, somehow unable to get solid contact on another Rivas cross that dropped perfectly for him.
“Alex came up with some incredible stops,” said Vanney. “This win is really because of the saves he made in the second half.”
Toronto switched formation to a back four late in the game to blunt the Orlando attack and hang on for the win in what proved to be an entertaining contest.
“First and foremost we are really disappointed with the loss … disappointed in general with the first 45 minutes,” said Orlando coach Jason Kreis. “The second half was much much better, we looked like ourselves. We’re going to continue to judge ourselves based on ourselves. That wasn’t like us and we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.”
Vanney marked his 100th game in charge of Toronto with a win, raising his record to 42-36-22. His father, whose wife passed away last month, was on hand to see it.
Toronto heads to Seattle next for a weekend rematch of the MLS Cup final won by the Sounders in a penalty shootout.
After a slow start to the season, Giovinco now has five goals â€” with a pair of two-goal performances in the last three games. Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez, meanwhile, notched his sixth assist of the season.
Giovinco and strike partner Jozy Altidore have accounted for 10 of Toronto 14 goals this season.
Kaka scored his second goal in as many games after missing five matches with a hamstring injury.
“He’s a beautiful player,” Giovinco said of Kaka.
It was a matchup of Eastern powerhouses, who came into the game with just one loss each (to Columbus). But Orlando had taken 18 of a possible 21 points while Toronto, thanks to four ties, had collected just 13 of 24 available.
Toronto scored on its first shot.
Wingback Raheem Edwards ran down a pass on the left flank and then beat defender Scott Sutter before sending in a cross. Altidore got a foot to it and the ball went to Giovinco, who shifted it from his left foot to his right before sending a shot through traffic past a diving Joe Bendik.
Giovinco struck again in the 38th minute after Altidore found Steven Beitashour wide open on the right. Bendik got a hand to his cross but the ball went to Vazquez. The Spaniard found a nearby Giovinco and the Italian hooked it in from the edge of the six-yard box.
Giovinco now has six goals â€” and 11 points â€” in six games against Orlando.
Kaka cut the lead on the stroke of halftime, burying a shot high into the goal after some sluggish Toronto defending on a short corner. Larin got the assist, heading the ball to his captain.
Bono was perhaps lucky early in the second half when he was yellow-carded in the 50th minute for coming out of his area and impeding Larin as the striker got on the end of a through ball.
A bout of stomach flu sidelined Orlando midfielder Will Johnson, a former TFC player.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press