Jozy Altidore scores on late free kick to lift Toronto to a tie with CF Montreal

·4 min read

TORONTO — Substitute Jozy Altidore scored on a long-range free kick in stoppage time to lift Toronto FC to a 1-1 tie with CF Montreal in MLS play Saturday, damaging Montreal's playoff push.

Sunusi Ibrahim scored in the 55th minute and CF Montreal looked to have hung on for the victory. Toronto, which brought its big guns off the bench in the second half, had pressed for an equalizer but was stymied by goalkeeper James Pantemis until Altidore stepped up for the set piece in the 95th minute.

Altidore, who came on in the second half, beat Pantemis to the corner with a shot from well outside the penalty box.

The Montreal goal came off a cross from Zachary Brault-Guillard. Toronto 'keeper Quentin Westberg could not hang onto the ball and Ibrahim, johnny-on-the-spot, was left with a simple tap-in for his fourth goal of the season.

It came on Montreal's first shot on target and the 19-year-old Nigerian youth international celebrated by racing over to the corner flag and kissing the turf, before being swallowed up by teammates in front of an announced crowd of 8,095 at BMO Field.

Montreal, which finished 18 points behind TFC last season, arrived 17 points ahead of Toronto and looking to consolidate its position above the playoff line.

Montreal (11-10-10) won both earlier meetings with Toronto (6-17-8) earlier this year, 4-2 in the season opener April 17 in Fort Lauderdale and 3-1 on Aug. 27 at Saputo Stadium. It has never won three straight over Toronto.

Coming off a midweek 1-1 tie in Orlando, Montreal was unbeaten in its last three games (1-0-2). But it had only won one of its 10 previous games (1-5-4) on the road, dating back to late May with the lone win — 4-2 at Orlando on Sept. 15 — marking the only time it had scored more than once in a game over that stretch.

Toronto had lost its last two games, blanked 3-0 midweek in Miami and 2-0 last Saturday by visiting Atlanta. The Atlanta defeat officially eliminated TFC from playoff contention.

With Omar Gonzalez and Kemar Lawrence both injured, TFC captain Michael Bradley started at centre back in his 249th appearance for the club in all competitions.

There were danger signs early on for Toronto with Ibrahim looking to take advantage of Bradley's lack of pace in the back four.

Toronto winger Jacob Shaffelburg had a chance in the 20th minute after a Sam Piette giveaway but his shot was cleared by a defender.

Toronto began to stroke the ball around, building on possession and often looking to release the pacey Shaffelburg. Pantemis stopped a Patrick Mullins free kick in the 34th minute, with Montreal clearing the rebound before any further damage could be done.

Toronto outshot Montreal 8-3 (3-0 in shots on target) in the first half.

Spanish playmaker Alejandro Pozuelo replaced Mullins to open the second half for Toronto, with fellow designated player Altidore coming on in the 66th minute.

There was some niggle as the game wore on, with both Jonathan Osorio and Jacob Shaffelburg booked for showing their displeasure at Montreal players. Pantemis stopped an Altidore header in the 67th minute.

Three minutes later, Pantemis somehow got his arm in front of a more powerful Altidore header off a corner.

Djordje Mihailovic had a gilt-edged chance in the 76th minute after Joaquin Torres sent a lowe cross through the box but Braziilan fullback Auro got a foot in front of Mihailovic's shot. Minutes later, Pantemis stopped Auro's shot at the other end.

Montreal substitute Bjorn Johnsen had a chance to put the game away in the dying minutes but fired wide.

Toronto coach Javier Perez made six changes to the starting 11 that lost in Miami.

Westberg, making his seventh start of the season, took over in goal for Alex Bono whose errant pass led to the first goal in Miami. Richie Laryea, Auro, Chris Mavinga, Mark Delgado and Osorio also slotted in.

Toronto was without the injured Gonzalez, Lawrence, Ifunanyachi Achara and designated player Yeferson Soteldo as well as long-term absentees Ayo Akinola, Ralph Priso and Tsubasa Endoh, who are recovering from surgery.

Montreal was missing its two leading goal-scorers in Romell Quioto (eight goals) and Mason Toye (seven goals) as well as Robert Thorkelsson and Jean Aniel Assi. Victor Wanyama didn't dress.

Montreal started six Canadians to Toronto's five.

Montreal had Pantemis, Brault-Guillard, Joel Waterman, Kamal Miller, Mathieu Choiniere and Piette, who captained the side, while Toronto had Laryea, Noble Okello, Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Shaffelburg and Osorio.

Next up for Montreal is Wednesday's Canadian Championship semifinal at Forge FC, followed by a Saturday visit to the New York Red Bulls.

Toronto hosts the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday before playing at Atlanta on Saturday.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2021

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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