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Prince Owusu's acrobatic second-half strike lifts Toronto FC past New England

Toronto FC's Prince Osei Owusu (99) controls the ball against the New England Revolution during second half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, April 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn Toronto FC's Prince Osei Owusu (99) controls the ball against the New England Revolution during second half MLS soccer action in Toronto on Saturday, April 20, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
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Prince Owusu and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty helped put Toronto FC back on track Saturday, ending a goal-filled three-game slide with a 1-0 Major League Soccer win over the struggling New England Revolution.

The 19-year-old Marshall-Rutty entered the game in the 62nd minute and helped set up a spectacular strike by Owusu four minutes later.

The game turned when defender Ryan Spaulding's attempted clearance of a Matty Longstaff cross skewed in the air and dropped to Marshall-Rutty. He headed the ball across goal and a speeding Owusu, beating a defender, somehow backheeled it in with his back foot while airborne.

Asked what he was thinking as he was mid-air, Owusu replied: “Nothing.”

“It was a striker's instinct,” added the no-nonsense German forward, who scored twice off the bench in last week's 3-2 loss at Charlotte.

Marshall-Rutty earned a penalty in the 76th minute when a sliding Andrew Farrell was judged to have handled the ball as he attempted the tackle. Federico Bernardeschi, Toronto's designated penalty-taker, could not beat Slovakian goalkeeper Henrich Ravas from the spot as his goalless run stretched to 18 games.

The excitement followed a dreary first half that offered little in entertainment for the announced crowd of 24,108 at BMO Field. But the second half delivered what Toronto (4-4-1) needed most of all - a win and a shutout from Sean Johnson.

“We needed three points,” said a relieved Toronto coach John Herdman. “And how we got them wouldn't really matter tonight. This week was definitely back to basics, to try and push a clean sheet.”

Both teams were dealing with injuries and in need of a change in fortune.

After a promising start, TFC had been outscored 10-3 in losing its three previous games - and had won just one of its last five outings (1-4-0).

New England (1-6-1) was equally desperate.

The Revs, whose attention was divided to start the season by a run to the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals, came into the game mired in the MLS Eastern Conference basement with just five goal to their credit.

New England was outscored 10-3 in losing its first four league outings, but arrived in Toronto having gone 1-1-1 in its previous three MLS games. The Revs, who lost 2-0 at New York City FC last time out, have yet to win on the road this season in four tries.

Owusu now has four goals in five games, seemingly ending the discussion about who on the current roster should be starting at forward.

“For sure,” said Herdman. “He's shown a level of leadership the last three to four weeks. He's had to deal with the disappointment of not starting. … He's been one of the standout people in the locker-room over the last few weeks.”

Toronto was without its talisman, with Italian star Lorenzo Insigne still nursing a hamstring injury, and fielded a makeshift defence with Kevin Long suspended and Shane O'Neill injured.

Also injured were Richie Laryea, Brandon Servania and Alonso Coello. Toronto signed 17-year-old TFC 2 midfielder Andrei Dumitru to a short-term loan agreement to make up the numbers.

Bernardeschi and defender Raoul Petretta both started after being listed as questionable.

Herdman made three changes to his starting lineup with Owusu, Tyrese Spicer and Kobe Franklin coming in for Deandre Kerr, Coello and Long.

New England was missing Brandon Bye, DeJuan Jones, Tommy McNamara, Jonathan Mensah, Peyton Miller and Dylan Borrero. Argentine winger Tomas Chancalay, one of the Revs' designated players, started on the bench.

Coach Caleb Porter started two 19-year-olds in Noel Buck and forward Esmir Bajraktarevic.

New England lost 1-0 when the teams met March 3 at Gillette Stadium. The Revs had gone 1-3-1 since in league play with the lone win coming April 6 in a 1-0 decision over visiting Charlotte.

The Revs finished sixth overall in the league last season with 55 points, 23 above 29th-place Toronto. But this season has been a struggle under Porter.

With the Maple Leafs opening the playoffs in Boston the same night, Toronto captain Jonathan Osorio arrived at the stadium wearing a Mats Sundin Leafs jersey.

Toronto hosts League1 Ontario champion Simcoe County Rovers in Canadian Championship play Wednesday and visits Orlando City SC on Saturday. New England welcomes Inter Miami on Saturday.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024.

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