The MLS Champions Toronto FC beat Tijuana Xolos 3-2 in an entertaining friendly match tonight in San Diego.
Sebastian Giovinco scored twice and Marky Delgado once as the Reds played their third friendly having beaten UC Irvine 4-0 and Cal State Fullerton 7-1. However, the Xolos Tijuana fixture at the El Torero stadium of USD represented their first match containing two halves of 45 minutes.
Luis Angel Mendoza and Miller Bolanos were the Xolos scorers in a side largely made of of reserve and youth players.
Sponsored by 1904FC, it proved to be a highly competitive and entertaining match with the TFC first team outfield squad all playing just over an hour an hour.
Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovonco started for TFC and Miller Bolanos was in the Xolos line up. With TFC’s first half line up almost full strength and Xolos less so, it was a chance for the MLS side to make an impact.
But it was Xolos who struck early with Bolanos sliding the ball past an unprotected Clint Irwin with neither Chris Mavinga, Drew Moor or Nicolas Hasler anywhere near the Ecuadorian striker.
The match settled a little with Bradley’s influence beginning to show although Xolos’ local boy Alejandro Guido from Chula Vista was pestering him as marker. Drew Moor saved TFC’s blushes with an excellent timely tackle to stop a tap in from a Luis Mendoza cross just before two game changing moments.
There is much competition to start in the TFC defence with both Ashtone Morgan and Nick Hagglund not making the starting XI. Mavinga was lucky to only see a yellow from referee Ramy Touchan after a last ditch tackle for an offence that would almost certainly have seen him dismissed in a competitive match. Justified as Touchan was in the circumstances, that proved to be a turning point.
Fernando Arce brought down Jonathan Osorio for a free kick in the centre of the field, ideal territory for Giovinco. He lived up to his promise with a superb finish that left Luis Michel sprawling to his left in vain in the 19th minute. Seconds later it was 2-1 to the Canadians. Michel parried Giovonco’s shot but Californian Marky Delgado pounced first to net the lead goal. It was proving a good night for local boys.
In his first starring moment, Altidore brought a beautiful save out of Michel after muscling by a defender In the 38th minute, he hit the post with Michel saving a follow up effort from Giovinco well to keep the score at 2-1. Arce picked up a yellow for a foul on Delgado on 40, but the resulting free kick was too far out for a Giovinco direct effort. Bradley’s outswinger was safely headed clear.
Xolos though had one more threat before the interval and they made it count. Number 285 Raul Sandoval head down the Xolos wing and found the unmarked Luis Mendoza who netted Xolos’ second goal of the game and the equaliser for a 2-2 half time score.
TORONTO STARTERS REEMERGE AFTER THE INTERVAL
TFC coach Greg Vanney sent out the same line up for the restart, possibly to test the path to full match fitness for the CONCACAF match with Colorado on February 20th. 56 seconds in, it paid dividends when an unmarked Giovinco slid the ball under Michel for his second of the night.
Altidore got a little het up over nothing in the 61st and Vanney pulled him and the entire team off to be replaced by a reserve squad. It was of course preplanned with the mission to further test their fitness accomplished.
After that, the game resembled a reserve battle. Ben Spencer took too long when faced just by Michel and hit the keeper rather than slide the ball under,over or past him.
Local boy Guido left the pitch on 63 and with that dissipated a little more local interest from a strong but not capacity crowd. Mark Tanko, a Nigerian, replaced him.
Chances thereafter were fewer with a poor effort fired over Bono’s bar on 77. Then came the one moment of controversy. Bono was sent off for a professional foul ten minutes later with Nick Hagglund taking over in the sticks. He dealt with his moment gleefully and punched out the Xolos free kick. It was a comical end to an enjoyable game.
Xolos’ next game is at Santos Laguna on February 3rd. Toronto proceed with their preparation for Colorado 17 days later.