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Hamilton, Pozuelo braces highlight thrilling 4-3 Toronto FC win over Minnesota United

TORONTO — When Toronto FC and Minnesota United meet, goals are almost guaranteed.

A late double from substitute Jordan Hamilton earned the Reds a 4-3 victory Friday night. Those seven goals brings the total number of goals scored in this East-West matchup to 19 in just three meetings. TFC won 3-2 at home in 2017, but lost 4-3 in Minnesota last year — one of the low points of a disastrous 2018 TFC campaign marked by abysmal defending.

Weaknesses at the back continued to plague Toronto (4-1-1, 13 points) Friday. Goalkeeper Alex Bono and centerbacks Laurent Ciman and Chris Mavinga will each receive criticism for a conceded goal.

Darwin Quintero scored twice for Minnesota (3-3-1, 10 points), giving him five goals in two games against Toronto, and Angelo Rodríguez claimed the other. A stunning two-minute blitz from Alejandro Pozuelo, whose pair of goals put the hosts ahead after Quintero’s opener, appeared to be going to waste.

Enter Hamilton, who matched Pozuelo’s brace within six minutes of being introduced.

Still without Drew Moor and Auro in his starting lineup, Toronto coach Greg Vanney had Richie Laryea and Ciman join regular starters Mavinga and Justin Morrow in a back four. Minnesota was without 2017 Defender of the Year Ike Opara due to injury, which meant a start for Brent Kallman.

The Loons made the stronger start and took the lead when Bono, who has regularly looked uncomfortable coming off his line, raced to the edge of his box to cut out a long ball — only for Quintero to nod it past him before it arrived in his arms. With Bono stranded, the Colombian converted into an empty net.

That should have set up a scenario in which Minnesota played on the counterattack, but not so. Instead, a poor cross from Romain Métanire drew the ire of Loons coach Adrian Heath on the sideline, and his worst fear was realized: Mavinga’s clearance reached Pozuelo, who ran at an exposed defense and curled a superb shot past goalkeeper Vito Mannone from 20 yards.

Within two minutes, TFC and Pozuelo had their second goal. This time, Morrow led the charge down the left and cut a low cross back into the path of the Spaniard, who fired into the roof of the net with his left foot.

Anyone under the impression that may settle the night likely never watched these two teams play each other before. Pozuelo could have had a third goal before halftime that would have left Toronto in control, but instead, poor defending continued to rule the day.

Métanire had already planted one cross onto the head of an unmarked Quintero when he sent the ball into the box again in the 57th minute. This time, Rodríguez nodded home. Ciman appealed for a push in the back but simply was not strong enough to hold off the 30-year-old striker.

When Mavinga clumsily hacked down Rodríguez, and Quintero beat Bono from the penalty spot with 20 minutes to play, a familiar narrative of TFC defensive incompetence emerged.

But though the Reds have plenty of work still to do, there are two things they have this season that they did not in 2018: a refusal to give up and a seemingly unlimited supply of goals.

Hamilton beat Mannone with a low shot from a Jonathan Osorio through ball to steal three points and take the Reds to 17 goals in six matches.

An enormous part of the dynamic attack, of course, has been Pozuelo. It was his chipped ball that played Altidore in for a final chance; the American knocked an improvised shot over Mannone, but Michael Boxall appeared poised to clear off the line. The only problem? He didn’t know Hamilton was behind him.

Minnesota’s woes were compounded with the dismissals issued to Jan Gregus for a two-footed challenge on Pozuelo and Francisco Calvo for a second yellow card in the 89th and 91st minutes, respectively.

This is an early recap. Check back for updates and highlights.

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