Toronto FC reverses late-game letdown with rare fightback

Contrary to recent trends, it was TFC celebrating some late-game heroics in a 2-2 draw versus Dallas on Saturday.
TORONTO -- It was a strange reversal of fortune on Saturday at BMO Field, as Toronto FC fought back from a two-goal deficit to earn a late draw with visiting FC Dallas.

For much of the previous couple of seasons, the late game heroics came from the opposing teams, as TFC forged a well-earned reputation as a side that would inevitably drop points in the dying stages of matches.

Not so on Saturday, however.

Spurred on by an 84th-minute goal by Justin Braun to cut Dallas' lead in half, the Reds pressed for an equalizer to salvage what had looked like a lost match only moments before. And after a dominant five minute spell that included a couple of penalty shouts and a superb reflex save by FCD goalkeeper Raul Fernandez, Toronto finally broke through courtesy a 90th-minute wonder strike by right back Darel Russell.

It completed an improbable comeback by a TFC team that has shown signs of fight that has been woefully absent in previous years.

"Delighted to come back and show a second half effort like that," Toronto head coach Ryan Nelsen said after the game. "But frustrated in the fact that it took us adversity to get the character out and get the personality out. We've got to learn to show that from the start and show that for 90 minutes."

Indeed, TFC was lifeless for much of the first hour, as Dallas enjoyed most of the possession and made the Reds pay with a goal on either side of halftime. It was only after the game appeared out of hand that Toronto came to life, no doubt energized by the insertion of second half substitutes Braun and Luis Silva.

The two attackers changed the dynamic of the match and helped TFC achieve its second consecutive 2-2 draw against upper echelon Western Conference opposition.

"I think the questions were answered tonight about the character and the determination of the team against a very good Dallas team," Nelsen said.

For their part, TFC's players echoed their coach's sentiments. The mood in Toronto's locker room was one of both relief and frustration, as the team continues to try to shed the albatross of last year's nightmare campaign.

"Another good step forward in [the] way that last year we would have probably lost the game 3-0," Toronto captain Darren O'Dea said. "It's positive, but I've said it before, it's easy to take the shackles off and play football when you're 2-0 down, there's no pressure."

O'Dea had been critical of his own team at the end of last season, and while he was disappointed that the side waited until it was in a hole to show its fighting spirit, he still felt that the game was a learning experience.

"That game was there, it was there waiting for someone to win it and we need to be braver," he said. "But certainly it's a point gained after the start we had."