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Toronto FC comeback falls short as late Agyemang goal gives Charlotte FC 3-2 win

Charlotte FC forward Liel Abada, left, shoots against Toronto FC midfielder Matty Longstaff, second from right, and defender Kevin Long, right, during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, April 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond) Charlotte FC forward Liel Abada, left, shoots against Toronto FC midfielder Matty Longstaff, second from right, and defender Kevin Long, right, during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, April 13, 2024. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

Substitute Patrick Agyemang scored in the 85th minute to lift Charlotte FC to a 3-2 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, sending TFC to a third straight loss.

The six-foot-four forward outmuscled two Toronto defenders in front of goal to get to a low cross from an unmarked Brecht Dejaegere on the right flank. It was his second goal of the Major League Soccer season.

Salt was rubbed into the wound when Toronto centre back Kevin Long was sent off in second-half stoppage time for a second yellow after he hauled down Agyemang.

Toronto (3-4-1) had seemed to have rescued a point with Prince Owusu's second goal of the night tying it 2-2 after Israeli international winger Liel Abada had put Charlotte (3-3-2) ahead in the 70th minute with his first MLS goal.

Abada pounced on an errant pass by Toronto midfielder Alonso Coello and, outpacing defender Nicksoen Gomis, beat Sean Johnson with a well-placed low shot. The young designated player, who was dangerous all night, was making his third appearance since joining the club from Scotland's Celtic.

Toronto answered eight minutes later with Owusu once again in the right place at the right time, knocking home Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty's deflected cross for his third of the season. The TFC attack was launched by a marauding run from Italian Federico Bernardeschi.

Toronto which was missing a half-dozen players through injury, has been outscored 10-3 in its last three games.

Toronto was forced to defend for much of the first half, looking to counterattack when it could. Both teams lacked clinical finishing in the early going.

That changed ahead in the 39th minute when Toronto failed to handle a long ball aimed at forward Enzo Copetti. The ball fell to Charlotte's Kervin Vargas, who beat Johnson from the edge of the penalty box with a low shot through a defender's legs.

The 22-year-old Colombian forward celebrated his first of the season, in his 50th career regular-season MLS game, with a backflip.

Owusu tied it in the 49th minute, sticking his left leg out to knock home a Bernardeschi cross from close range. The German forward, who had just come on, timed his run perfectly to stay onside.

Abada hit the goalpost and then knocked home the rebound in the 55th minute when a free kick found him in the Toronto penalty box. But referee Allen Chapman blew the play dead, seemingly for a Charlotte hold that kept Marshall-Rutty from marking the Israeli.

The visit to Bank of America Stadium marked TFC's fifth road game in eight matches - and its second outing against Charlotte.

TFC won 1-0 when the two teams met March 9 in Toronto's home opener. Lorenzo Insigne, who scored the highlight-reel winner that day, was among the Toronto injured. That win improved TFC's record to 2-0-1. But John Herdman's club came into Saturday's game having gone 1-3-0 since, including a humbling 4-0 defeat at Vancouver last Saturday.

Charlotte, which improved to 3-0-1at home this season, lost 1-0 at New England last time out and had won just once in the four matches (1-2-1) since the game in Toronto.

Toronto entered weekend play in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. Charlotte was two points below in ninth.

Charlotte, which has yet to win on the road this season at 0-3-1, was 2-0-1 before Saturday at home where its average attendance this season is 30,778 - second only to Atlanta's 50,961.

Scoring has been an issue for both teams, with just six goals in their first seven games - an average of 0.86 that left the two tied for 25th in offence. Compare that to Vancouver's 2.33 goals a game, tops in the league.

Both teams had performed better on defence with Charlotte third in the league, conceding 0.86 goals a game on average. Toronto's numbers slipped after the Vancouver defeat with Herdman's side 12th, giving up 1.29 goals a game.

Marshall-Rutty and Owusu came on to start the second half for Toronto in place of Raoul Petretta, who had missed the previous four games with a thigh injury, and Deandre Kerr, who went down briefly in the first half.

Toronto was without the injured Insigne, Richie Laryea, Shane O'Neill, Jordan Perruzza, Brandon Servania and Tyrese Spicer.

The injuries prompted TFC to sign 17-year-old Toronto FC II midfielder Andrei Dumitru to an MLS short-term agreement.

Herdman made three changes to his starting 11 with Sigurd Rosted, Petretta and Alonso Coello coming in for Shane O'Neill, Marshal-Rutty and Spicer. Petretta had missed the last four games with a thigh injury.

Former Canada captain Scott Arfield started in a support role for Copetti for Charlotte, which was without defenders Nate Byrne and Adilson Malanda and midfielders Ben Bender and Brandon Cambridge.

Toronto hosts New England next Saturday with Charlotte entertaining Minnesota the day after.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2024.

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